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Reflections and Fantasies by Lorax


Inspired as a review of:

|**"Wicca 101" class3-holidays from the teaching coven of the Three Crescents**
|  **Please send all e-mail to this account.**
|***** Please do not distribute in full or in part without this header*****

I have been contemplating this subject for years and am inspired, based on
some of the text in this class, to complete a rough essay explaining the
nature of the Seasonal Cycle of Light and Darkness in greater parity than
I have found within the largely light-, creation-centric Wicca culture.


|...the eight seasonal holidays, the sabbats. 

The Sabbats form a compass of the light-dark cycle, and this may be
represented by a Great Cross or Wheel:

                             1     2    3
                               \   |   /
                                \  |  /
                                 \ | /
                        8 ------------------- 4
                                 / | \
                                /  |  \
                               /   |   \
                               7    6    5

Or as a linear sequence:

    /\            /\            /\            /\
   /  \  LESSER  /  \          /  \          /  \
  /    \   /\   /    \   /\   /    \   /\   /    \   /\
 /      \ /  \ /      \ /  \ /      \ /  \ /      \ /  \
V        V    V        V    V        V    V        V    V
    1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8

Or as a cyclic play of polarities:

                                                     8 Midsummer
1 Lughnasadh                                  7 Beltane      1 Lughnasadh
           2 Midautumn                 6 Midspring
                  3 Halloween   5 Imbolc
                         4 Midwinter

|These holidays help us to attune with the cycles of nature, 

Actually they don't always do this, and it largely depends upon one's
geographical location (in terms of storm systems, altitude and latitude).
What they *do* help us attune to is the cycles of lumination, and, in
the case of esbats, lunation.

|and celebrate the Wiccan creation/season myth. 

As the quotes from Mike Nichols below show, there is no One Wiccan Myth,
and this varies amongst traditions and cultures from time immemorial.  Even
across the Celtic culture there was more than one 'myth cycle' and this 
displays to us a variable symbolic communication.  Most of the time Wiccan
teachers merely take a jumble of these things and don't explain them to
the student because of the complexity of the subject matter.  My aim here
is to follow one particular line or theme throughout the year and show
why some of these myths are of value to me.

|In the springtime (Imbloc) The Goddess and God are children. As springtime 
|progresses, they mature and fall in love.  

As I shall show here, this class' mythotype follows most closely the
light- and creation-based version of the polar cycles.  As is common in 
Wicca, the conflation of seasonal cycles is here demonstrated, the 
preliminary difficulty being why we ought associate the beginning of
the season of Spring with childhood, especially when we are then told
that the god and goddess conceive a child at Midspring (Equinox).  This
presupposes a maturity which the divinities do not yet have.

|The God and Goddess conceive a child at the Vernal Equinox. 

Note that this does not reconcile with the traditional sexual revelry
associated with Beltane, Mayday.  In this way a twisted and convoluted
seasonal system is portrayed along aseasonal celebration points.  The
conception of the Child should be one of the most important sabbats,
and yet the Vernal Equinox is a lesser sabbat according to the Celts.
In fact, in that the Celts celebrated Imbolc as the beginning of Spring 
it is perhaps a more reasonable life-beginning, though not the event of 
conception but of birth.

|The child is actually the God himself, and he will be reborn from the 
|Goddess at Yule 

A confusing attempt to explain away a missing half of the year.  Most 
Wiccans only learn about the Lord of Light, presuming him to be 'the God', 
and yet this is only more leftover Christian Zorastrianism.

|(If it sounds wacky that the God is father to himself and lover of 
|his mother, think of reincarnation and how the sun and daylight change 
|during the seasons). 

Note the focus here on polygamy rather than an alternative polyandry.
It perpetuates the notion that there is no Other Side, no competition,
a singular, monistic light-system, settled within an Oedipal fantasy.
In other words, this mythos was created to please men.  

|The summer months reflect adulthood and full power and fertility of the 
|Great Ones, as well as the full bounty of the earth. 

Here again the 'Great Ones' are supposedly encompassed by the sol-
orientation, and yet we are told consistently within Wiccan tradition
that 'life is a play of polarities'.  Without reconciling this
teaching to the round of the seasons, we become fragmented and paranoid.

|During the fall, as the days grow darker, the God prepares to die 
|(Samhain) so his son/himself can be reborn. 

There is no explanation given for the death of the God.  It is simply
presented to us as a type of 'natural process'.  Yet what is it that
bites at the heels of the Lord of Light?  Surely we don't think that
he intentionally slays himself.  Why the focus in Celtic cultures upon
the *most important SOLAR holiday of the year*: Halloween?  Seen as a
gradual dissolution, this leaves the emphasis placed upon Halloween
completely mysterious, unexplained.

|At Yule, the God (sun) is born of the Goddess again, 
|and the dark nights shorten at his return...and so the cycle continues...

This 'death' of the Lord of Light presages the apex of darkness, just as
at Midsummer the height of this Lord's power is demonstrated by the
extreme length of days.  And yet what happens that the day should again
shorten?  Why is the birth of the Sun God celebrated upon the Solstice, 
rather than on a more important Cross-Quarter day?  Are all the accounts 
of the importance of these Cross-Quarter days inaccurate?  Else, what 
could we possibly be celebrating during them?


|<9> Death of Llew: A Seasonal Interp [NOT INCLUDED!!]

I would like to obtain a copy of this.  It would seem a very important
crescendo to a very lovely set of essays, and Mike Nichols' speculations
on the notions of myth-cycles may be quite important in resolving the
details of the polar play of light and darkness, given some of the
comments he makes below.

[here quoting Nichols re: Yule Trees]

|...Needless to say, such a tree should be cut down rather than 
|purchased, and should be disposed of by burning, the proper way to 
|dispatch any sacred object.

Not only is this ridiculous and wasteful, it is disrespectful of the
tree whom one would honor at this time of year.  'Sacred objects'
are the Tools of the Gods.  A tree is not an 'object', but a living
being of flesh and blood just like ourselves.  Even if we were to so
objectify and ritually sacrifice this being, burning it is more of
a re-enactment of the Burning Times (the stake being a relative
parallel symbol to the cross of pre-Christian times, both indicative
of the World Tree of many pagan traditions) than any sort of return
to the Womb/Tomb of Earth.  

I would recommend instead that such a tree be left where it grows
naturally, the lazy humans trekking out to the cold wastes to honor
her, the Mother Tree of the Forest.  There, rather than disposing
of her, watering her and decorating her with that which brings us 

If you must go through the despicable and loathsome ritual of
killing a tree for your 'sacred pleasures', then do us all a favor
and chop up the carcass for your compost pile, taking the children
of the forest into your garden and your table, perhaps providing
for you and your family an inspiration to become more compassionate.

|the holiday of Candlemas should be considered the beginning of Spring.

This is my jumping off point and I would like to emphasize it as the
cornerstone of my hypothesis regarding the twin gods -- the Lord of
Light and the Dark Lord.


|1) How do the pagan holidays relate to old standard American holidays like 
|Easter, thanksgiving, etc. ?

Most holy days celebrated by Americans are leftovers from pagan lunar or
solar holy days, perpetuated by the Church, merchants and patriotism and 
reclaimed in some measure by Neopagans.  Therefore to a certain degree 
they are a reflection upon a distinct and living undercurrent of spiritual
observance which goes back centuries.  As they are twisted into mechanisms 
that organizations use to work their wills, however, they merely become 
conducive of somnambulism (encouraging the worship of the One God, the 
One Product, or the One Country).

|2) Make a list of all the symbols and traditions you like for each 
|sabbat. Keep this list for use in a later class, and the work now will be 
|worth it later when you create ritual.

1 Lugnasadh -- I like the killing of the life to feed the living.
2 Midautumn -- I like the vanquishing of the Lord of Light by the Dark Lord.
3 Halloween -- I like the garish death-orientation, the surprises and the
               focus on altering one's mind, connecting with other worlds.
4 Midwinter -- I like the power and glory of the Dark Lord, Winter King.
5 Imbolc    -- I like Brigid, bringing forth Child.
6 Midspring -- I like the struggle for power between the Lords of the Year.
7 Beltane   -- I like the concentration on fucking.
8 Midsummer -- I like the journey of the Lightlord into the Realms of Darkness.

|4) Discussion list topic: Do you have a favorate season or holiday? 

Yes: Halloween. ... 

|Why is it meaningful to you?

I can only explain it by telling you of its context within the story
of the year as I have come to know it, though the point that the
Celtic day and year begins at nightfall is often overlooked and very
important to an understanding of how light and darkness were seen
and revered.

As Nichols says:

|...according to their ancient two-fold division of the year, ...summer
|ran from Beltane to Samhain and winter ran from Samhain to Beltane....
|According to the later four-fold division of the year, Samhain is seen 
|as 'autumn's end' and the beginning of winter...

This is shifted roughly 45' from the vulgar notions regarding the seasons,
and it pays tribute to the notion that 'Midsummer' is actually June 21
(or thereabouts) and 'Midwinter' is Dec 21 (or thereabouts) as is quite
often written in literature (such as Shakespeare in 'A Midsummer Night's

|...the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year, 
|just as the new day begins at sundown. 

This is slightly untrue.  In fact, the onset of the 'dark phase of the
year' is actually Midautumn, at Equinox.  Therefore while these folks
may well have been celebrating the beginning of the year, it was not
the beginning of some light or dark phase which was being emphasized 
at Halloween.


Let's start with the birth of Spring and proceed to Halloween and beyond
in order to set the stage or an understanding of this seasonal cycle.  
First we have 'Imbolc' or 'Oimelc', which Nichols tells us mean:
"'in the belly' (of the mother)" and "'milk of ewes'", respectively.

Imbolc is one of the great forgotten holy days of the Celts, usually
associated with 'the quickening' or development of the unborn.  While
this may be significant to farmers who cannot plant on account of
the snow in their country, it does not give a direct connection to the
obvious birth-oriented references by the names of the holy day.  For
this we must look to the signifance of the Cross-Quarter day: Beltane.

Beltane is *always* connected with fucking.  It is the great fertility
festival in which the May Pole and Flowering Chalice are pre-eminent.
Some Wiccans attempt to connect this to 'marriage' in a sort of 
conventional sense rather than the perfect and conjugal dalliance which
is respective of all life and love.  It is here, at Beltane, when the
Lord of Light is conceived within the Goddess, of whom he is consort.

Here be mysteries.  Count the months from the Fucking Festival until
the the Birth of the Sun Lord -- 9 -- and we wind up *smack* on the
first day of Spring, Imbolc, Oimelc, the Festival of the Midwife.  Now
we can discern why the Cross-Quarters of the solar year were so
important to the Celts -- they were 1) attuned to the cycles of light
and darkness and 2) knew the cycles of the body and gestation, and 
3) presumed there to be two Lords of the Year pairing with two Queens
(or one Queen given dual aspects, such as that of Persephone/Proserpine).

It is after Imbolc that the King proclaims the death of the Hero, the
Herodiac and Arthurian attempt to slay the competing son and future
Lord.  This also becomes the first trial of the Hero and his mother.
Having given birth to the future Lord, she thereafter champions him,
eventually taking him as her consort in place of his predecessor.

|All in all, this Pagan Festival of Lights, sacred to the young Maiden 
|Goddess, is one of the most beautiful and poetic of the year. 

The notion that Imbolc is sacred to the 'young Maiden Goddess' is a
fairly recent one.  Brigit, whom we most often associate with this
sabbat, is too complex to isolate into one stereotype, being a
composite of Mother Goddess, Lawmaker, Educator and Midwife, among
other things.  It was the Christian Church which relegated Brigit to
the status of saint (and nun) and fire-keeper, the kindling of the 
eternal flame the invocation of the Lord of Light.

As we shall see with the Festival of Lughnasad, Imbolc also marks the
waning of the power of the Dark Lord, the Crossroads having been
passed, the power of the Kingdom, the connection to the Land being
indwelling in the breast of the newborn Child, just as in the case
of Arthur/Artur and Modred/Medrawt.


Nichols writes of one of the Celtic myth cycles:

|...the restored Llew takes his vengeance on Goronwy by piercing him 
|with the sunlight spear.  For Llew now well/old enough to 
|vanquish his rival/twin and mate with his lover/mother.  And the 
|great Mother Goddess, who has returned to her Virgin aspect at 
|Candlemas, welcomes the young sun god's embraces....

The 'sunlight spear' is an obvious phallic reference, and Llew's use
of that magical tool is an indication of his entry into adolescence,
his rise into manhood.  Midspring marks the 'victory' of the Lord of 
Light over his twin brother with whom he continually struggles (see 
Lugh and Bes within popular Celtica for more here), and it is here
that that Lord begins his ascendancy toward union with the Goddess
(at Beltane) moving on to maximize his kingly power (at Litha).  

Such a 'victory' is not, as some monists would have us believe, a
permanent condition.  The twin lords spin through a constant and
recurrent 'death and rebirth' opposite to one another on the Wheel
of the Year.  This is perhaps best represented by the symbol of the
T'ai Chi, or Great Ultimate, with its Yin and Yang poles.  

While one reigns in the upper ordinary world, the other is taken to 
the Realm of Faerie, where he becomes the Lord of the Underworld, 
consort to the Faerie Queen the other half of the year.  This is in 
many ways the comparative story to Zeus, Hades, Persephone/Proserpine 
and Demeter. 

Something must be said about this notion of 'Virgin/Mother/Crone'
within traditional Wiccan religion.  A recent post to the Internet
featured Diana White's teachings regarding the aspects of the ancient 
Goddess.  This has to date most closely approached my own reflections
on the nature of the gods and fits in marvellously with the Celtic
pantheon in the seasonal cycle as I understand it.

Ms. White says it best in 'THE FIVEFOLD NATURE OF THE GODDESS':

# Witches often talk about the Threefold Nature of the Goddess:
# Maiden, Matron and Crone. The Greek statues of Hekate showed her
# with three faces, symbolising Past, Present and Future. It also
# symbolised Her power in the heavens, on earth and in the
# underworld; and linked Her to the three phases of the Moon:
# Crescent, Full and Dark.... 

# It is [Persephone/Demeter/Hekate] who are honoured in the idea of 
# the threefold Goddess..... 

White accurately portrays these modern usages as hand-me-downs from
the Patriarchal Greeks, whose vision of the Goddess incorporated
rather limited roles based upon relationship to the male:

# Virgin - too young to have sex [and children]
# Matron - old enough to have sex [and children]
# Crone - too old to have sex [and children]

She goes on to lay the groundwork for a more expansive alternative:

# The much older legends of the goddesses and gods of the very
# ancient Middle East present a more complete picture. The Great
# Goddess has many names: Anahita, Inanna, Anath, Astarte, Ishtar,
# Isis and Magna Mater, but by whatever Name She is known, the
# Great Goddess has five sides to her nature.

Ms. White thereafter provides the breakdown of these five sides
whom I choose to characterize in the following manner:
The Maiden/Virgin  -- Child, Innocence, Potentia, Purity
The Wanton/Harlot  -- Indulgence, Sensuality, Gratification
The Mother/Midwife -- Benefaction, Initiation, Support
The Warrior/Guard  -- Protection, Aggression, Capture
The Crone/Wise One -- Counsel,  

# The Ever-Virgin Maiden, her infinite potentials not yet realised.
# The Wanton, freely giving herself to whoever she chooses for her lovers;
# The Many-breasted Mother, source of all fruitful benevolence;
# The Warrior, who will war with anyone who would seek to conquer her;
# The Wise One, judge and counsellor to all.

|    Naturally, this is the season to celebrate the victory of life
|over death, as any nature-lover will affirm.
|    There are four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year and the
|modern Witch's calendar, as well.  The two greatest of these are
|Halloween (the beginning of winter) and May Day (the beginning of
|summer).  Being opposite each other on the wheel of the year, they
|separate the year into halves.
|      In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the
|Beltane celebration was principly a time of '...unashamed human
|sexuality and fertility.'  Such associations include the obvious
|phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse.  Even a
|seemingly innocent children's nursery rhyme, 'Ride a cock horse to
|Banburry Cross...' retains such memories. 
|     But for most, it is May 1st that is the great holiday of flowers,
|Maypoles, and greenwood frivolity.
|     There are also many mythical associations with the summer
|solstice, not the least of which concerns the seasonal life of the God
|of the sun.  Inasmuch as I believe that I have recently discovered
|certain associations and correspondences not hitherto realized, I have
|elected to treat this subject in some depth in another essay.  Suffice
|it to say here, that I disagree with the generally accepted idea that
|the Sun-God meets his death at the summer solstice.  I believe there
|is good reason to see the Sun-God at his zenith -- his peak of power
|-- on this day, and that his death at the hands of his rival would not
|occur for another quarter of a year.  Material drawn from the Welsh
|mythos seems to support this thesis.
|    In Irish Gaelic, the feast was referred to as 'Lugnasadh', a feast
|to commemorate the funeral games of the Irish sun-god Lugh.  However,
|there is some confusion on this point. 
|Some mythologists see in this
|ritual the remnants of a Pagan rite symbolizing the end of summer, the
|flaming disk representing the sun-god in his decline.  And just as the
|sun king has now reached the autumn of his years, his rival or dark
|self has just reached puberty. 
|    Many commentators have bewailed the fact that traditional
|Gardnerian and Alexandrian Books of Shadows say very little about the
|holiday of Lammas, stating only that poles should be ridden and a
|circle dance performed.  This seems strange, for Lammas is a holiday
|of rich mythic and cultural associations, providing endless resources
|for liturgical celebration.
|    Mythically, this is the day of the year when the god of light is
|defeated by his twin and alter-ego, the god of darkness.  It is the
|time of the year when night conquers day.  And as I have recently
|shown in my seasonal reconstruction of the Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd,
|the Autumnal Equinox is the only day of the whole year when Llew
|(light) is vulnerable and it is possible to defeat him.  Llew now
|stands on the balance (Libra/autumnal equinox), with one foot on the
|cauldron (Cancer/summer solstice) and his other foot on the goat
|(Capricorn/winter solstice).  Thus he is betrayed by Blodeuwedd, the
|Virgin (Virgo) and transformed into an Eagle (Scorpio).
|    Two things are now likely to occur mythically, in rapid
|succession.  Having defeated Llew, Goronwy (darkness) now takes over
|Llew's functions, both as lover to Blodeuwedd, the Goddess, and as
|King of our own world.  Although Goronwy, the Horned King, now sits on
|Llew's throne and begins his rule immediately, his formal coronation
|will not be for another six weeks, occurring at Samhain (Halloween) or
|the beginning of Winter, when he becomes the Winter Lord, the Dark
|King, Lord of Misrule.  Goronwy's other function has more immediate
|results, however.  He mates with the virgin goddess, and Blodeuwedd
|conceives, and will give birth -- nine months later (at the Summer
|Solstice) -- to Goronwy's son, who is really another incarnation of
|himself, the Dark Child.
|    Llew's sacrificial death at Harvest Home also identifies him with
|John Barleycorn, spirit of the fields.  Thus, Llew represents not only
|the sun's power, but also the sun's life trapped and crystallized in
|the corn.  Often this corn spirit was believed to reside most
|especially in the last sheaf or shock harvested, which was dressed in
|fine clothes, or woven into a wicker-like man-shaped form.  This
|effigy was then cut and carried from the field, and usually burned,
|amidst much rejoicing.  So one may see Blodeuwedd and Goronwy in a new
|guise, not as conspirators who murder their king, but as kindly
|farmers who harvest the crop which they had planted and so lovingly
|cared for.  And yet, anyone who knows the old ballad of John
|Barleycorn knows that we have not heard the last of him.
|      In the medieval miracle-play tradition of the 'Rise Up, Jock'
|variety (performed by troupes of mummers at all the village fairs), a
|young harlequin-like king always underwent a mock sacrificial death.
|But invariably, the traditional cast of characters included a
|mysterious 'Doctor' who had learned many secrets while 'travelling in
|foreign lands'.  The Doctor reaches into his bag of tricks, plies some
|magical cure, and presto! the young king rises up hale and whole
|again, to the cheers of the crowd.


|and one face gazing hopefully toward the future, mystic eyes
|attempting to pierce the veil and divine what the coming year holds.
|These two themes, celebrating the dead and divining the future, are
|inexorably intertwined in Samhain...
|And so the great burial
|mounds of Ireland (sidh mounds) were opened up, with lighted torches
|lining the walls, so the dead could find their way.
|Extra places were
|set at the table and food set out for any who had died that year.  And
|there are many stories that tell of Irish heroes making raids on the
|Underworld while the gates of faery stood open, though all must return
|to their appointed places by cock-crow.
|New Year's
|Eve represents a point outside of time, when the natural order of the
|universe dissolves back into primordial chaos, preparatory to re-
|establishing itself in a new order.
|To Witches, Halloween is one of the four High Holidays, or
|Greater Sabbats, or cross-quarter days.  Because it is the most
|important holiday of the year, it is sometimes called 'THE Great

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