I created this mix several years ago — a collection of hymns, chants, Medieval carols and songs — a music compendium to mirror and celebrate this sacred moment in the Earth’s time cycle.
The Solstice, the night of the longest night, also marks the return of luminosity, as Winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere and radiance gains prominence.
Light has always symbolized awareness and consciousness, as well as life-giving, creative properties. And in a real way we are each bodies of light, with the Sun Absolute as both our source and sustainment. And that bond is not simply symbolic, it is literal.
For many astrologers, the Winter Solstice is a demarcation that defines the start of the New Year. How we experience the longest night provides an essential hint as to the theme or signature of the year ahead. Both universally and personally. It’s my wish that this mix of music can tune you into a vector that’s off the beaten path, especially for this time of year.
Solstice Blessings to each of you!
I’ve always put up a Christmas tree. Despite the halfhearted participation (and groaning) of my boyfriends, I’ve faithfully, right after Thanksgiving, headed out and bought (or here on Vashon, cut down) a tree to lug home. It’s a ritual I rarely miss.
After visiting India some years ago I returned home in the winter and the notion of putting a bauble-laden tree on display felt absurd. This is a rite of passage for anyone who ventures to India: Your brain cells are rearranged and you never view your world, or its customs, the same. I know that was true for me as a Westerner. Christmas in America, after the dust and squalor of India, felt gluttonous. So I skipped the holidays that year — though I missed having a tree in the house.
I enjoy the act of arranging the colors, textures and lights on a tree. It’s similar to making a painting, the alchemy of conjuring art. Simpler, but no less magical. I especially love the ricochetting of light amidst the ornaments, as it envelops the tree at nighttime. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that the ritual of displaying a tree is a sacred act — although I’ve never fully understood why.
Most of us are familiar with the historical origins of the Christmas tree. Its association with the pagan rite of celebrating the solstice. When the light of the Sun ‘returns’ in the Northern hemisphere and begins its increase and ascent, the radiance grows stronger and longer through the ensuing months. Trees would be displayed to honor the burgeoning of light and life. And the fruits and trinkets that would decorate the tree honored the bounty, the wish of a successful harvest in the year to come.
And yet the historical perspective never impressed me much. I mean, none of those facts would drift through my mind as I’d lounge on the couch in the evening — no matter my age — and stare at the tree until I fell asleep. Nope, another set of mysterious associations would encircle me and send me into a reverie. And it wasn’t until I came to the conclusion of one of my favorite books this year that I began to make sense of my devotion.
Martha Heyneman‘s book The Breathing Cathedral is a fantastic interweaving of the cosmologies of Gurdjieff, Dante, Aquinas, Stephen Hawking and others, into a new model, a new interpretation of the universe we inhabit. I was drawn to the book because, as a longtime student of Gurdjieff’s teachings, I was intrigued to see how Heyneman, a zoology student turned poet, was bringing Gurdjieff’s teachings forward and marrying them to the world of science.
The last chapter of her book is titled O Christmas Tree, and at first the subject — the family Christmas tree — seemed an odd way to summarize all that she’d explored in the previous chapters. But in the end I understood completely. Read more
Living in the Pacific Northwest affords you lots of opportunities to stare directly at the Sun.
That reads weird, but since childhood we’re told never to stare at the Sun because we’ll go blind or insane. So when the opportunity to stare arrives one should take it.
This childhood proscription felt doubly true when I lived in Hawai’i because there was so much Sun. Too much Sun after awhile — and so I moved to Seattle to stare.
I was looking at the Sun the other day because the conditions were ideal here on the island. A gritty fog was dispersing off of the harbor, overshadowed by a bowl of overcast — a spread of grey punctuated by a bright white smudgy ball; a stealthy Sun at high noon.
Staring was startling because it reminded me of something I don’t think about that often, but when I do think about it I get an in-the-bones sense of living on a ball that is floating around in the endless blackness of space.
The cycle of night/day, night/day, night/day fashions reality into a false division that night and day are equal. But really day is just a gift of a sliver of a twelve-hour moment. All else is nightness.
And when I have that sensation I’m reminded of what I felt like as a kid with my mom and dad and how tethered I was to them, always in orbit around their presences. Much like the Earth is with the Sun. And the Moon with the Earth. People, stars, planets and moons. Unions comprise cosmoses — small and personal or immense and seemingly impersonal.
In that same cloud light the other day, staring at the Sun’s nimbus, I also recalled a passage from A.H. Almaas‘s last book in his Diamond Heart series. It’s called Inexhaustible Mystery. He wrote a chapter titled Beyond Consciousness (one of those chapters that is worth the price of the entire book). And in this chapter is a poem he wrote called The Guest Only Arrives at Night.
The Guest of course is the Beloved, which is really you without an identity that is based on a relationship to a mother and a father. Imagine that. Read more
Autumn on the islands that dot the Puget Sound is particularly wistful.
Fog floats inland frequently from the bay — shifting the terrain’s palette dramatically. The red and yellow foliage are made doubly loud atop grey mist. The damp ground littered with gorgeous debris. It’s epic.
Fall’s the season that reminds you of how everything — once present — is passing away; you’ve limited time — the impermanence of The Ten Thousand Things.
Winter and summer arrive like well-defined stage sets. Static in a way. Spring works subtly on the part of our nature that leans towards hope, a new tomorrow, love affairs, cleaner homes, it’s easier to take for granted. Summer is really hot.
But autumn. It will mess with your head. Read more
Rémi Gaillard is a guy who lost his job as a shoe salesman and then decided to transform the big question mark in his life (as in “What to do next?”) by spreading that question mark all over the world as a culture jammer, (as in people scratching their heads while watching him and asking “What the fuck?)
Think of Rémi like another Banksy but only much more juvenile, a graduate of the Jackass school of agitprop.
Gaillard is a good example of someone taking a scary life event (unemployment) and flipping it into a cue to start doing exactly what he loved most, namely comedy and furries and disturbing the status quo. (Furries? Well, just Google it).
Gaillard’s motto is “C’est en faisant n’importe quoi qu’on devient n’importe qui.”
Translated: “It’s by doing whatever that one becomes whoever.”
I’m needlepointing that into my bedspread right after this post goes live.
As a man interested in comely men, I will vouch, too, for P.E.T.A’s designation of Rémi being one of the sexiest vegetarians on the planet. I’d like to share a tofu burger with him at his earliest convenience.
His natal chart (February 7, 1975 in Montpellier, France — no birth time) shows a not-surprising water trine between Venus and Uranus. Venus (and Mars) in Pisces folks have a strong affinity with animals. Perhaps this is related to the traditional association of the signs Virgo and Pisces (with little and large animals, respectively.) You can think of this signature as someone who loves (Venus) to create chaos (Uranus) by wearing animal (Pisces) costumes. Feel free to add that description to your collection of key phrases for astrological aspects.
Amplifying his comedic nature is Aquarius and Saturn. It might be that Gaillard’s moon resides in Capricorn, too, depending on time of birth, but he’s definitely an Aquarian. And as I remind folks with a strong Saturn or the sign Aquarius exaggerated in their chart: Some of the funniest people in life are Saturnine (dark, sarcastic, often gallows humor-inspired souls) or Aquarian — just loopy peculiar folks, like extraterrestrial walk-ins.