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[Witch Way] Volume #3 Issue #7 -- I'm Dreaming Of A White Yule
December 13, 2010
|Hi, Merry Yule!
Happy Yule to you all,
Last night (as I write this) was the first annual Front Range Pagan Pride Yule Ball. If you’ve read the About page on the website, you know I’ve been involved with Pagan Pride for a number of years. This year I joined the Board of Directors for FRPP, and we decided to do some fund raising events throughout the year.
This was a fancy dress ball, with catered food, a band, and several of us doing readings, all to raise money for our local Pagan Pride event, and to get donations for a local battered women’s shelter, which is our charity for the year.
Turn out for the event was ok, but not great. It looked to me like we had about 50 people show up. A small gathering by local community standards, but still respectable. I spent most of the night in the reader’s room, doing Magic 8 Ball readings. Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of using runes, or tarot cards, I use a Magic 8 Ball to foretell the future. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but the readings can be surprisingly accurate. At least, I’ve had no complains so far.
I was taught that any form of divination is valid, as long as you stick to a set of rules that are followed every time. I have come up with rules for how the die comes to the surface, that allow me to elaborate on the typical Yes, No, or Reply Hazy answers that the Magic 8 Ball gives. It’s all in good fun, and it allows me a chance to talk to people while I do the readings.
It’s just amazing the things you can find out about people by simply talking to them. It helps to be observant, and it’s better if you like to talk to new people. I’ve found that there are a lot of people who are shy, or bashful, and have a hard time striking up conversations with strangers. I understand this. There was a time when I was one of the guys standing up against the wall, while everyone else had fun. I learned a long time ago that it’s a lot more fun to actually talk to people.
This is the season for social events. There are all sorts of holiday parties going on, and almost everyone gets invited to at least one. People who are introverted seem to hate these events. They go because they are required to, and spend the night holding up a wall, or holding down a chair. They wonder why they’re there, because no one ever seems to come over to talk to them, or those that do, they’d rather not talk to.
They could be home, watching TV.
We are, as a species, social creatures. We require interaction with others. This time of year is perfect for finding social interaction. The problem is that when a person has trouble starting a conversation, they feel awkward in these social gatherings. The gatherings are meant to provide company and fellowship, but for the shy or bashful, they tend to provide only torture.
So in the interest of helping those who are socially insecure, I have some suggestions. First, don’t pin your self-worth on a conversation. We all-- and I mean everyone-- have those awkward moments when a conversation just won’t happen. No matter how hard you try, the conversation just won’t go anywhere. Don’t worry about it. Smile, say “sorry”, and move on.
Most conversations do happen though. It’s just a matter of starting them. All you have to do is walk up to someone you don’t know, say hi, introduce yourself, and ask how they are doing. Many times, that is all it takes to start a conversation. People love to talk about themselves. If you invite them to do so, most will. Guys, if you want to get to know that beautiful lady, this is how you do it.
It helps to have a backup topic just in case “How are you doing?” gets a short answer. The backup topic is also known as small talk. It can be an observation on the weather, someone else at the gathering, or any other non-important topic. The point is to just get the person to start a conversation with you. You would be surprised at how easy it really is.
If you are just too worried to fly on your own, walk close to a group of people and listen in on what they are talking about. You may find that it’s something you know, and can join in on. Most people in a group are just talking, and don’t mind if someone joins in with more information. I wouldn’t try this if it’s just two people talking, but with three or more, it can be the start to a great evening.
Chances are that at any gathering you attend, there will be something you all have in common. That right there gives you something to use in starting a conversation.
You may be wondering why I’m giving advice on how to start a conversation. The truth is, to be an effective Witch you need to work outside your comfort zone. You need to be willing to do things that are uncomfortable to you. That is the only way you can grow emotionally, and spiritually. Our Path requires us to learn and grow constantly. It’s the only way we can become the best person we can be.
By pushing boundaries, and going outside your comfort zone, you are encouraging personal growth. I had one of my friends in the local Heathen Kindred ask me if he could give my phone number to one of his new pledges. She was tasked, as part of gaining entry to the Kindred, with calling me, and talking to me. A few weeks later, at the next Blot, she came up and asked me if she could call me later that week. I told her that would be fine. She still hasn’t called me.
She was tasked with contacting me, because her Path has been more Witch than Heathen, and because she has a hard time talking to people she doesn’t know. This is a test for her. Is she willing to do what needs to be done in order to grow Spiritually? It’s easy to say you’ll do something. Words come easy, and are cheap. The real effort comes with putting those words into action.
Fear is never a reason not to do something, it’s only an excuse. Until you forge on through your fear, it will own you. You can’t be an effective Witch if you are afraid to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Stop making excuses, step outside your comfort zone, and as the Nike ads say, Just Do It.
We all have our fears. The brave person isn’t the person without fear. It’s the person who doesn’t allow their fear to keep them from doing what needs to be done.
So I am tasking each and every one of you reading this to do something that frightens you. You may fail. You may fail several times, but what’s the worst that can happen if you do? Failure isn’t a bad thing, it teaches you about yourself. Those lessons can be put to use on the next thing you’re afraid to do. Instead of worrying about what could happen if you fail, think about what could happen if you succeed. Successful people think successful thoughts. It sounds clichéd but it’s true.
If you really want something, attempt to get it. I have been trying to meet a certain woman for many years now. The thought of meeting her scares the crap out of me, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Someday when she overcomes her fears, we will meet and at least then we will know for sure.
You never know unless you try.
A Monthly Column For Astrological Insight
This month’s column is about the Planet Uranus and its astrological significance.
First of all, all three outer Planets—Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—were identified recently (within the last two centuries or so), and so the way that astrologers interpret them is still subject to debate. All three also move significantly more slowly than their brethren, taking far more than a year or two to traverse just one Sign of the Zodiac. This leads many astrologers to call these Planets “generational,” in that they have a noticeable but generalized effect on large groups of people over long periods of time—a “generation”—as opposed to influencing individual people in a specific way over a very short span of time.
All three generational Planets also talk about the need for the past to give way to the future, although each does so in a different way.
Though I agree that the outer Planets’ generational influence is real and something the inner Planets have not been observed to have, they do noticeably affect individuals as well.
Next, some history on the Planet Uranus is in order. Uranus was actually seen by the ancients, but it moved so slowly and shone so dimly in the night sky that it was mistaken for a distant star, and so not named. Thanks to improved telescopic technology, the previously-unnamed celestial body was discovered to be a Planet in 1781 by William Herschel, and given the name Uranus by Johan Bode shortly afterward.
Despite some controversy, the name was fully accepted by the astronomical (and astrological) community by 1850. In recent years the debate around the Planet’s name has reopened within the astrological community, as some astrologers believe that the archetype of Uranus does not seem to fit the Planet’s apparent influence, and believe that the name and archetype of Prometheus would be more appropriate. This is a point of view championed by Richard Tarnas, and is one that I agree with.
Uranus is unique among the known Planets in the solar system, in that the Planet appears to lay on its side as it orbits the Sun. Uranus’ magnetic north pole often points directly toward the Sun, rather than away and “up” at a roughly 90 degree angle the way most Planets do, making it look visually at odds with the way one expects a Planet to appear.
This oddity combined with events that were happening around the time Uranus was discovered to be a Planet—the American and French Revolutions, the spread of the Industrial Revolution, the flowering of the idea of “individual rights,” the separation of the study of economics from moral philosophy—have led astrologers to certain conclusions regarding Uranus’ astrological influence.
Uranus is considered to be the Awakener. Just as the realization that Uranus was a previously undiscovered Planet “woke up” the astronomical (and astrological) community to the fact that the solar system was a larger and stranger place than they had first thought, Uranus is constantly pointing us in the direction of the new and unexpected.
Uranus is all about individuality, eccentricity, sudden realizations, innovation, unpredictability...and insanity. Uranus is the co-ruler of Aquarius, helping to create the Aquarian eccentricity, idealism and fixation on the future that people born under other Signs often find so baffling.
In a person’s natal chart, wherever Uranus’ influence is felt, the person is likely to experience a lot of unpredictability. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Uranus’ influence can make planning very difficult. Also, it is very likely that because of this unpredictability (or because of other needs the native may have), the area of a person’s life that Uranus affects—the House in a person’s chart Uranus resides in—will be an area in which the native is forced to be unconventional.
If Uranus is very near the Ascendant, the Midheaven or the Sun, the native may be seen as a true maverick. This is someone who will probably differ dramatically from his or her peers, and whose life will present a surprise around every corner. While this can be exciting and very educational, it can also be very exhausting and not a little frustrating at times.
Generationally, the Sign Uranus is in when a person is born tells of what they need to “wake up” to in their own lives to be a fully functioning human being. For instance, those born with Uranus in Gemini may have to wake up to the fact that the world (and even their own neighborhood) is a diverse and constantly-changing place, so efforts to enforce conformity or sameness are probably unwise. Those born with Uranus in Scorpio, on the other hand, may wake up to the fact that they have to take active control of their lives to avoid falling victim to the underhanded efforts of others.
It takes Uranus between seven and eight years to move completely through one Sign of the Zodiac. The upside of Uranus’ transiting influence is awareness, while its downside is hysteria. While Uranus moves through a Sign, it “awakens” dysfunctional behaviors in the mass psyche that correspond to the Sign’s archetype. Every society experiences “temporary insanity” and Uranus can tell us what collective insanities we are likely to experience at what time. Participating in these hysterias is entirely optional, however. If we pay attention, Uranus can allow us to choose whether or not we really want to drive off the currently trendy cliff.
In December 2010 and January 2011 Uranus is getting toward the end of the Sign of Pisces. Uranus entered Pisces on the very last day of 2003 (after a false start back in March of that year), and will be truly leaving Pisces in March of 2011. Uranus moved briefly into Aries earlier in 2010, but did not stay long and I did not notice an effect. Once Uranus enters Aries in March of 2011 its effects will probably begin to appear, and Uranus will remain in Aries until early March 2019.
With Uranus in Pisces, we become very attached to our delusions, and it becomes ridiculously easy to deceive us and take advantage of us en masse. The many are then martyred for the good of the few. The last time Uranus was in Pisces was from 1919 through 1927. This was a time of then-unprecedented stock-market speculation in the developed world, Prohibition in the United States, and the founding of the dystopian Soviet Union.
As a parallel, since Uranus entered Pisces in 2003, we have experienced the first world-wide real-estate bubble (after investors failed to learn from an epic stock-market bubble), and the world’s sole superpower—the U.S.—began a war of occupation in a foreign country (Iraq) on the basis of false information under an ever-changing set of pretexts, without a real measurement of accomplishment or real exit strategy at the cost of hundreds of billions taxpayer of dollars...not to mention the thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives.
Also in the United States, a “health-care reform” package was adopted that was supposed to ensure universal health-care, but which ensures only the health-insurance companies stay profitable (this was touched on in last month’s column on Saturn, but since Uranus was also involved as well I feel it worth re-mentioning).
Since the real-estate bubble collapsed in 2007, the worldwide taxpaying public (with the exception of Iceland) has not only bailed out criminally fraudulent banks to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, without taking any real steps to ensure a similar crisis wouldn’t happen again, but blown yet another market bubble, this time in the bond market. In Europe, the monetary union that was supposed to usher in a new United Europe appears to be in deep trouble, and the supposed experts at the European Central Bank are doing everything exactly wrong to fix the problem. If there is a bond-market collapse before March, chances are good that the public will be tapped for yet another bailout, and will go along with it without any significant resistance despite the inability to afford it.
Uranus was last in Aries from 1927 until 1935. The Piscean delusions of the Roaring 20s were brought crashing down to Earth by the Market Crash of ’29, and the years of 1933 and ’34 were the very darkest of the Great Depression. Then, as now, while Uranus had been in Pisces (1919-1927) whole populations had entrusted their money to bankrupt banks, voted for politicians and laws that were even more idealistic and despotic than usual, and believed the unbelievable projections of experts who modeled their solutions on fantasies rather than facts.
Uranus in Aries (1927-1935) corresponded to populations going overboard in austerity, distrust and unilateralism to compensate for Uranus’ stay in Pisces, bringing about and then prolonging the Great Depression (although avoiding any large-scale wars). Uranus is once again moving into Aries in March of 2011, and will be there through March of 2019. Last time, extreme belt-tightening, mistrust and xenophobia bought us a Great Depression, and it looks like if we’re not careful we may end up buying ourselves another one.
However, Uranus presents us with the solution as well as the problem. While we certainly need to be more frugal and less trusting in the coming years, Uranus indicates that spending a little money just for fun and taking a few small chances on others is still necessary. Discipline and moderation are what will probably serve us best while Uranus is in Aries, though it may seem that punishment and competition are what’s called for. Awareness is even more fundamental to Uranus’ energy than Saturn’s. Both Planets’ influence brings awareness. But while Saturn brings it as an inevitable consequence, Uranus brings it as a tool.
I had said earlier that I believe Prometheus is a better archetype for this Planet’s influence than Uranus, and this is why. Mythologically, Prometheus was the Titan that created humanity. He did so at Zeus’ behest, to provide a race of slavish worshippers of the gods. But taking pity on his creations, Prometheus defied Zeus and brought humanity the gift of fire, giving the race a power on par with the gods and so the chance to win free from the gods’ yoke.
In much the same way, the Planet we’ve named Uranus brings us a different set of hysterias every seven years—shows us how the gods of our ignorance would make us clowns—while also giving us a more subtle gift of awareness, one that if we choose to cultivate and use to bring warmth and illumination, can free us from the tragicomedy that our collective unconsciousness would otherwise doom us to.
Just as I believe Uranus has been misnamed, I believe Neptune and Pluto have been misnamed as well. I’ll address those other two archetypes in the next two columns (unless you guys write to me and tell me not to) along with the two Planets’ general astrological significance. I think it’s a good thing that a debate has begun in the astrological community about renaming Uranus, but I think Neptune’s and Pluto’s names have to be reconsidered as well. I believe that if all three Planets are properly named our progress into the Age of Aquarius—and out of the Age of Pisces—will be accelerated.
Next month’s column will be on Neptune.
I wish you all a very happy Yule, Solstice and/or Christmas. May you have many warm nights, and keep a warm place in your heart for your friends, family and future.
Oh yeah...and lots of nice presents, too.
NOTE: This is not a typical “horoscope” reading, breaking astrological influences down by Sign for a given period of time. The information in this column should apply to most people, most of the time. If you have any questions, or want specific personalized information on how what’s going on in the heavens affects you, contact Jim Trader.
Time Of The Season
It’s that time of year again. Actually, it’s been that time since before Samhain. I know I saw my first “Christmas” displays going up while I was out looking at Samhain decorations and candy. Interestingly, I heard that “Halloween” is the second most commercial holiday after “Christmas”. It’s a shame that retailers don’t hype Samhain for three months of the year. That would be a lot more fun.
As most of us know, the holiday that the Christians took over at this time of year, is actually Yule. Contrary to the calendar, it is really Mid-Winter, not the beginning. Just as Litha, is the longest day of the year and Mid-Summer, Yule is the shortest day of the year, and Mid-Winter. This is the day we all look at, and say, ‘We’ve made it through the worst, now the days will get longer again.’
I think it is only fitting that a Holy Day commemorating the middle of Winter should come from the Norse. After all, when you live that far North, Winter is a lot longer, colder, and darker than for most people. It just makes sense that the Norse would want to celebrate that the darkest time has come and gone, and that the ease of Spring is drawing nearer.
In Old Norse, the word Yule means either feast or wheel. Some resources say that in Norway, no wheels were to be turned during this time of year, for that would show impatience with the Great Wheel (the year). The symbol of the wheel has been used to identify Yuletide for generations.
The feast is obvious. The people have been surviving on gruel for a couple of months now. The grains harvested at Lughnasadh, have been the main staple of the diet. They are what has kept everyone alive through the cold, harsh months. There has been meat, that which has been hunted or trapped, but not a lot.
So at this time of year, to celebrate the passing of Mid-Winter, hunting and trapping increases for a few weeks, then is stopped completely for the celebration. The meat is cooked, and the feast prepared. The entire Hall is lit with as many candles as can be found. The Norse chopped down an evergreen and brought it inside the Hall. There it was lit, and decorated with apples. Anything bright and shiny was added to the tree. Reflected light is increased light, and the tree was the brightest object in the Hall.
The Evergreen was a symbol of life during this time of death. By decorating it with fruit, the people were showing that even in this time of cold and death, they had the bounty of harvest. They were also magickally encouraging all the other trees to come out of Winter’s sleep, and bear fruit. It was a way of mentally pushing forward the year, and hoping for plentiful food.
We still follow this tradition today, by setting up an evergreen tree, and decorating it with lights, and big red apples, though today the lights aren’t candles, and the apples are painted glass ornaments. The icicles and garland are symbols of the ice and snow that cover the trees at this time of year. Even under the deepest snow, these trees still produce fruit. That is the true symbolism behind the “Christmas” tree.
When most people today hear the term Yule Log, they think of a cake. The Yule Log was actually the entire trunk of a very large tree. The remnant of last year’s Yule Log was used to start the Yule Fire, and the end of the new Yule Log was added. Each day the Yule Log would be pushed farther into the fire as the log burned. The fire was kept going until only a small part of the Yule Log was left, to start the next year’s fire. Again, this was a symbol of the Wheel, ever turning, never ending. It was the continuity of the year past, and the year to come.
Today, we think of fruitcake as a gag gift that is passed to the unsuspecting each year. But when you realize that fruitcake is made mostly of candied fruit, and that fruit was candied in order to preserve it through the Winter, you begin to realize that the gift of a fruitcake was actually a way of giving survival and life to others. The reason fruitcake lasts for years, is that it was purposely made to last a very long time. It was a way of enjoying the taste of Summer, during this frozen time of year. It was a dear treat that was enjoyed as a rare delicacy.
Holly is another evergreen that looks alive during Winter. That is why it is used to decorate. Any plant that seems to still be alive during this time of the year, is symbolic of the growth of Summer, and therefore put in a place of prominence in our homes. It is a way to magickally call out to Nature, and get the other plants to come back from dormancy. Plants that actually bloom during this time, such as poinsettias, are even more prized as a symbol of the fertility to come.
Mistletoe is another evergreen that is associated with this time of year. In ancient Scandinavia, if rivals met under the mistletoe, they laid down their arms and were required to call a truce until the next day. Mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, to the Norse. Over time, this concept of calling truce under mistletoe, evolved into the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. After all, you can’t stay mad at someone long, when they are kissing you. It’s just a different type of truce.
The Norse Myth about mistletoe and kissing, involves The Norse God Baldur, and his mother, Frigga.
When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to harm Baldur. Unfortunately Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant. This lead Loki, the Trickster God of the Norse, to take advantage of Her oversight. As Tricksters will, Loki tricked one of the other Gods into killing Baldur with a spear fashioned from mistletoe. The demise of Baldur, a vegetation deity in the Norse myths, brought winter into the world. The Gods did eventually restore Baldur to life, after which Frigga pronounced the mistletoe sacred, ordering that from now on it should bring love rather than death into the world. Happily complying with Frigga's wishes, any two people passing under the plant from then on would celebrate Baldur's resurrection by kissing under the mistletoe.
Christians around the world will celebrate this Norse Holy Day in the most traditional ways without even knowing it. When you are greeted during this season with the words “Merry Christmas”, smile knowingly at the fact that these Christians would be horrified if they only knew the truth of what they were doing. That they are celebrating the most Pagan of holidays with the most Norse of traditions...the little Heathens that they are.
Lest we forget, this is also the day when the Sun is reborn. The Christians at least got that part right, even if they misspell the word Sun. While the Sun won’t appear in the sky for several more weeks in the far North, it is still reborn anew, to grow in strength and intensity. Over the next six months the days will get warmer and longer, heralding the rebirth of the world.
I plan to celebrate Yule with my friends, the Mjolnir Kindred. We will feast on homemade chili cooked by their Gothi, Magni. What better way to stave off the cold of the season, than with a steaming bowl of chili? Yule is a time to be spent with family, and these are the brothers and sisters I chose. Considering they do ritual outside, in the snow, no matter how deep it may be, the mead and the chili should help warm my body. It will certainly warm my spirit.
So celebrate this Norse Holy Day, and give thanks for making it past Mid-Winter. The worst of the dark time is over. Light fills the days anew. It won’t be long before the snow melts, and the world comes back to life. You’ve made it through another year, and that is a fact worth celebrating!
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Until next month, may you be blessed in all that you do, or as we usually say,
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