Archive for December, 2007
Walking along Princes Street in Edinburgh, I came upon the latest mixture of Christmas mythology. A red fur-trimmed cowboy hat. Was it a blend of popular and ancient culture, with the sole aim of profit? Has it not always been so?‚Ä¶ Is Santa really the Devil and is his ‚ÄúHo Ho Ho‚ÄĚ a disguised code for something more sinister? Have I been misled to regard him as a fat cheerful chap, dressed in Red, with white fur trimmings and an enormous white beard? I find it rather unsettling to discover that Santa Claus was also Saint Nicholas, The Green Man, Herne, and Cernunnos, amongst other Pagan deities.
Due to the take over of Pagan celebrations by the newly Christianised Romans around 400 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the images of Cernunnos, so similar in many ways to the cleft-footed horned image of Pan, were combined into a conditioning image of the Devil. But what about ‚ÄúHo Ho Ho‚ÄĚ and ‚Äú666‚Ä≥? Well - If you rearrange the letters of the name ‚ÄúSanta‚ÄĚ you get ‚ÄúSatan‚ÄĚ. Not only that, but each ‚ÄúHo‚ÄĚ has six letters and spaces between the H and the O. Therefore, when Santa says ‚ÄúHo Ho Ho‚ÄĚ ~ he‚Äôs really saying ‚Äú666‚Ä≥ the Devil‚Äôs number. Apart from the fact that I think that the last example is urban folklore and a bit mischievous; it is a fact that we still call the Devil ‚ÄúOld Nick‚ÄĚ. ~
I would be a voice amongst many thousands if I simply turned this ‚Äėpost into a diatribe about the over-indulgence of Christmas; but it has always been so - even 3,500 years before Christ‚Äôs time, when it was a Pagan festival. The northern cultures of Europe called the celebration of the winter solstice ‚ÄúYule.‚ÄĚ And today we have merged Yuletide greetings, Yule logs, mistletoe, gift-giving and the Yuletide season into today‚Äôs Christian calendar. The men of these ancient religions would go out and find the largest log or tree trunk they could bring home for the winter solstice or Yule festival. These logs were burned, and they were supposed to be large enough that they burned for twelve days. This was the foundation of the twelve days of Christmas; the Pagan origins and ritual going back as much as 4000 years before Jesus and the birth of Christianity.
From being an outlawed and despised religious sect, Christianity grew from its humble beginnings and was eventually declared the official religion of Rome. The Emperor Constantine held the Council of Nicea in 325ad where the ‚Äúauthorised‚ÄĚ gospels were chosen from the mass of writings surrounding Jesus and the outline of the new religious movement was formed. I think that many people in Britain and America would be surprised to find that Christmas Day was only created by the Roman Catholic Church in 1038 and that December 25th was in fact, the birthday of the Persian God Mithra.
The time of the winter solstice has always been associated with excess - not just our current round of binge-drinking and raving festivity. No matter how much the church tries to emphasis the Holy quality of the Christmas period, the old Pagan ways show through. The winter festival honouring Bacchus, the god of wine, lasted around a month, ending on December 25. The twelve-day festivals of the winter solstice were full of eating, drinking, violence and sex. Does that sound familiar?
This is significant later when Protestantism came about, and the winter festivities of Christmas were looked down upon as being excessive and wasteful. The celebration of Christmas was banned in Britain and New England in the early 17th century, persisting in parts of the USA until the 18th century. . Puritan ministers fought against the celebration of Christmas in the U.S; there were fines for such modern day traditions as singing Christmas carols, nativity scenes, eating certain foods like mince pies, etc. In fact, Christmas was not an official holiday in New England until 1856; Less than 200 years ago.
The case for being dogmatic about the 25th of December as being the birthday of Jesus takes another blow when we consider that the shepherds ‚Äúwatching their flocks by night‚ÄĚ, would not have done so at in onset of winter, as it snows in the hilly areas of Jerusalem at that time. It is more likely that Jesus was born in mid to late summer - this would suit the strange Japanese village of Shinto, who believe that Jesus escaped the cross and that his brother took his place - Jesus meantime journeyed to Shinto, where he became a garlic farmer and married, having several children! Jesus is purported to be buried there and every midsummer he is commemorated by the villagers (many of whom have blue eyes)
In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs on December 22nd, when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. On December 25th it rises one degree, signalling the return of life. There are also three dominant stars from the constellation known as Orion‚Äôs Belt that are referred to ‚Äúthe three kings‚ÄĚ in several cultures. It does seem that the early Christian church hi-jacked the Summer and Winter Solstices, overlaying Christmas and Easter - as these were two events that were celebrated at a traditional and instinctive level by pre-Christian people. As every politician knows, it is better to re-brand than try to abolish. You can see the Pagan origins of the Christian calendar, showing through the layers of each superseding culture. How many people consider, as they put up their Christmas tree and hang mistletoe over a doorway, that they are participating in the echo of ancient Pagan religious practice? Not only that, but many of the major events in the lives of our Christian Prophets are assigned calendar dates to co-incide with and overlay major Pagan holy days, dating back to the seasonal events of our early agricultural societies and their worship of the Sun as the major God and the Solar Year as his life cycle.
I can quite happily accept the merging of Christ‚Äôs birthday and his crucifixion and resurrection, with the solstices; with the Yule Logs, Mistletoe, presents and excess of the Winter and the fertility symbols of Easter Eggs, Easter Bunnies (except the blue ones!) and phallic maypoles - all are indeed the celebration of life and re-birth. What upsets me is the worship of the ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ God - the God of Money. The religious festivals of Christmas and Easter have become a commercial whirlwind of present-buying, against a comparative decline in church attendance - very Pagan. (Or at least the meaning given to the word ‚Äúpagan‚ÄĚ by the Christian church.) In 1931, Coca Cola commissioned an artist names Haddon Sundblom to design a new image of Santa for their advertising campaign. That campaign was the most successful in the giant company‚Äôs history - I‚Äôm not going to knock Coca-Cola however, Sundblom produced one of the most friendly, joyous, kind, loving and generous characters of our times (even if it was to make money) If we define the spirit of Christmas as being our of Love, Generosity and Remembrance, then it is easier to accept images and representations of that spirit, irrespective of whether they tie in with our conditioned ideas or not.
Christmas - the sending of cards and the giving of presents - did not really take off in the mass-public consciousness until Charles Dickens wrote the classic ‚ÄúA Christmas Carol‚ÄĚ in 1843. (It is interesting to note that Dickens rote the piece to write off a debt, so in a way he was not totally removed from Coca-Cola‚Äôs profit making with Santa) Anyway, Dickens produced an exciting blend of Christian and Pagan influence, which may have resulted in a drop in sales, if the general public had realised that his ghost of Christmas Present had a striking similarity to the Pagan Green Man The woodcut above, one of eight originals by John Leech, must have been one of the templates used by Sundblom in his search to find an image that would resonate with the American and world-wide public of the 1930‚Äôs. It is said that Sundblom had used images of Cernunnos as part of his inspiration, yet because of religious conditioning, and Pagan reference would have probably resulted in a sudden and dramatic drop in sales. Similarly with Dickens. In his description of the ‚ÄúSpirit of Christmas Present‚ÄĚ, he laces his script with Pagan references and yet he does not underline the Pagan background.
‚ÄúAwaking, Scrooge found himself in his bedroom. There was no doubt about that. But it and his own adjoining sitting-room, into which he shuffled in his slippers, attracted by a great light there, had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove. The leaves of holly, mistletoe and ivy, reflected back the light, as if many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney. ‚ÄúCome in, - come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!‚ÄĚ
Philip Arthur William Collins, the literary scholar, regarded as a leading authority of Dickens works stated ‚ÄúDickens is making up his Christmas mythology as he goes‚ÄĚ. I personally think that Dickens was not ‚Äúmaking (it) up‚ÄĚ, but rather going beyond the accepted tramlines of popular religious belief and blending together the sources of the Spirit he was describing, to produce a character who‚Äôs three-dimensional personification was perhaps closer to the more universal spirit of Generosity and Love that we worship at the Winter Solstice. Because the Pagan content of the Spirit was not underlined by Dickens, the inherent good nature of the Spirit was accepted by people who would probably have been shocked to realize that his green robe and the presence of holly, mistletoe and ivy revealed his ancient identity as that of Herne or Cernunnos (vilified by the Christian church as Satan) In fact - The Green Man Next time you are near an ancient church or cathedral, go in and look up. Chances are that you will see, looking down at you from columns and pillars; images of ‚Äúdevil like‚ÄĚ creatures. Maybe you accept them because of your conditioning, or probably don‚Äôt even notice them. It is an arguable theory that the stone-masons who originally built those churches, had accepted, (against the might of authority - Might is Right) Christianity. Nevertheless these workers, long ago, took the opportunity to carve images of their ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ Gods, high up where they could not be reached and (before the days of electric lighting) were probably not really noticed. Amongst the stone ‚Äúdevils‚ÄĚ you may find the Green Man. There you will see an ancient stone face, sprouting with vines and leaves. He is the culprit. He is the God of Life - Not just the name of a Pub.. Merry Christmas and Good Yule.4 comments
Is there a moment when Dead people and Living people meet? Does the Soul of the dying person, hang around for a while, before ‚Äúgoing on‚ÄĚ?
Unless death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, many of us have or will have the experience of caring for a loved one who is dying. I found the weeks leading up to my mother‚Äôs passing, very stressful and traumatic and yet the experience and the events that followed, have made very deep changes within me. When she died, the selfish child that was inside me also passed away.
When my Dad was dying, I put off going to see him in hospital for several days. I had put off my visit through being selfish with my own fear and also an anger that Dad was leaving me. The first thing he said when I arrived at his bedside was, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôve come to see me off‚ÄĚ. I now know what my response should have been, but my reply as I stood rooted to the spot was a cop-out ‚ÄúNo Dad, you‚Äôll be fine.‚ÄĚ It must have made my realistic Father very lonely, as he ‚Äúknew‚ÄĚ . My mother, thinking of my dad and not herself (unlike me), took off his smeared spectacles and cleaned them.
My problem was that I was afraid of death because I hadn‚Äôt seen it and didn‚Äôt know or understand it. I could not at that stage, see that death was the natural part of the wheel of life, when things become dormant before growing again.
Our western culture tries to avoid any mention or sight of death. Death is too often the dreaded end - the moment of oblivion. Like a prisoner in a condemned cell, afraid to count the years and days, we approach the inevitability of Death by avoiding it, by pretending it doesn‚Äôt exist and will never arrive. Everyone will die except us.
Not so other cultures. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, honesty to the person nearing death is regarded as an ultimate expression of Love. The book relates how the person deserves honesty about their impending death, especially as they have been deceived and lied to throughout their life. The book calls that simple honesty ‚Äúa delightful situation‚ÄĚ. The family of the departing soul will and should, accompany the dying person to the point of death and beyond.
At the time, I thought that this degree of honesty was too much for my Dad and decided that a gentle lie would be the best course of action to take. Some years later the thought occurred to me that I would not want other people to deceive me when it was my time to go.
I had stood looking at my Dad, strangely afraid of the whole situation when I could have said everything that he knew already by simply giving him a big hug.
Death is often seen as a journey or a voyage. On the other side, the loved ones and relatives of the dying person, gather to help and guide them over what feels like an area where both the living and the dead can meet. An area where we must say goodbye to the departing soul and hand them over to our ancestors. I had heard this before, but I didn‚Äôt really believe the second part. Yes, I understood that I should have accompanied my father to the point of death, but as far as I was aware at that time, death was the end and what followed was only oblivion. I guess that‚Äôs why I was so afraid and angry.
When it came to my mother‚Äôs turn, I was more prepared and I resolved that I would care for her right until the end. Even so, I still didn‚Äôt really believe that anything lay beyond the last heart beat and I was unprepared for the intensely spiritual events that followed:
I had taken to sleeping the the next room to my mother so that I could monitor her throughout the night. One night, about five days before she died, I became aware of a ‚Äúpower‚ÄĚ in the middle of the room, just where I had taken to sleeping on a ‚Äėput-u-up‚Äô bed. I could not see the power area with my normal vision, but I felt that it was like a cylindrical shaft of white, slightly bluish light. As I lay on the put-u-up, the power around me made me feel uncomfortable and so I moved to one side of the room and spent the rest of the night on the settee.
It was the same the following night, only stronger and in the early hours, I heard my mother wandering around in her room. When I went in, I found her with her coat in her arms, even though she had hung it up earlier before going to bed. It was as if she was already somewhere else and because her new surroundings were so unfamiliar to her, she no longer knew where to hang her coat. I gently guided her back to bed and tucked her back under the sheets. She gave me a very direct look, as if she knew changes were happening.
I spent the remaining nights on the settee, the power had grown much stronger and the house seemed full of unseen people. I recalled Liz my ex-wife telling me how, during her last days, her own mother asked her what all the people were doing downstairs, as she could hear lots of laughter and conversation. Apart from Liz, the house was empty.
On the day Mam died,I remember calling people who knew my mother and suggesting that they drop in an see her whilst I was at work. The house was now full of spirits and the power in the front room had grown even more. I was very worried and I knew that something was about to happen. I spent most of the day worrying about her, so ten minutes before our evening show, I phoned. Mam seemed fine although she did say that she had perhaps eaten too much ice-cream with her evening meal as she had a little indigestion, . Looking back, I am so glad I phoned because around an hour later, my friend Debbie phoned me to say that my mother had been taken ill and was being rushed to hospital.
I drove up the motorway from Bristol where our show was performing, knowing in my heart that this was her time. Debbie was at the hospital entrance when I arrived; ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs gone‚ÄĚ said Debbie.
I took Debbie‚Äôs hand and set off to the ward where Mam lay. There is such an estrangement in our society to Death, that the Doctors and Nurses involved tried to delay me in seeing my mother. Again and again we were ushered into little waiting rooms while they tried to ‚Äúprepare‚ÄĚ me. The result of their delaying tactics was to increase my desperation to see my mother. I was so tense that the idea of sitting down was a total anathema to me. After the third claustrophobic room, Debbie spoke up loudly ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs his right to see his Mother!‚ÄĚ
Debbie‚Äôs exclamation did the trick. The cordon of Doctors and Nurses parted and I set off down the corridor to where a nurse was indicating the cubicle where Mam lay. As I hurried to her bedside, I heard a Nurse behind me hiss ‚ÄúYou shouldn‚Äôt have said that!‚ÄĚ to Debbie.
Whereas I understand that Nurses and Doctors should be instructed to prepare relatives gently and protect them, I also think that this is needed due to the over-protection and denial of Death in our Western society. Certainly being shut in little rooms with floral wallpaper and pastoral paintings did Nothing to prepare me - other than making me very tense.
I said goodbye to Mam and left the hospital. I had the strangest feeling that my Mother was leaving with us.
When I returned home, I paced around for hours until fatigue set in. The power was still in the front room and so I lay on my mother‚Äôs bed as it seemed the most peaceful place. I didn‚Äôt really sleep, but after a while I had the distinct feeling that my mother was all around me. I reached up and touched my face and it was my Mother‚Äôs face. I felt small and within her in some way. I know that this might be just imagination, but at the time it felt very real and now after the events of the following night, I believe it Was real. (see Christina‚Äôs Telephone below)
Mam ‚Äústayed around‚ÄĚ until after the funeral and then seemed to ‚Äúgo on‚ÄĚ. She returned around three months later in a dream which had been predicted by Patrick Webb, one of my favourite mediums. I had attended spiritualist church for the first time the following Sunday and since that time, I have received so much guidance from my supposedly dead mother, that I cannot just put it down to the illusion of grief. As I have been told so many times over the last two and a half years, I know that my mother is now my spirit guide.
A dear friend wrote the following words:
‚ÄúI know that you are strong enough to carry on with the legacy of love and dignity that your mother and you shared. You will be her eyes and ears and feelings for her spirit. Her spirit lives with your Dad through your experiences. This is what we do here on earth for those who have passed on - we experience that world with our bodies and they can manifest through us. We now are the physical state which they can experience life with it‚Äôs ups and down, it‚Äôs joys and sorrows. Through us they exist.
Over the years i have felt much peace in knowing the wisdom shared by my parents and grandparents. When they were alive I was unable to see these things. In their passing, great wisdom came to me. The passing of one‚Äôs parents is the milestone of opportunity to grow that many people fail to address in it‚Äôs proper purpose.
Your mother has now ascended from parent to holy spirit status. What a wonderful chance for her to pass her wisdom to you - concepts that were too difficult to communicate with words.‚ÄĚ
Please also read the following if you‚Äôre interested and have the time:
Christina‚Äôs Telephone http://www.soulmerlin.com/christina1.html - Probably the nearest to a ‚Äúproof‚ÄĚ of an afterlife I have experienced. The article is three pages long. Because it clicks from page to page rather than scrolls, many people miss the third page.
Paradise Lane http://www.soulmerlin.com/paradise1.html (the Dream predicted by Patrick Webb)
Visit to a Glasgow Psychic http://soulmerlin.com/almanack/?p=1292 comments
I‚Äôm so angry about the Sudanese Teddy Bear Gillian Gibbons situation. The initial threat of forty lashes, six months in prison and a possible heavy fine was disgusting. It may have made people relax when it was reduced to fifteen days in reasonable accommodation, but even the notion of punishing her for allowing her pupils to name the teddy bear Mohammad; not directly after the Prophet but after a school-boy in her class, is as dangerous as it is ridiculous.
The hardliners in any branch of society usually win and the subdued and politically-correct response of the British Government to this Sudanese political side-show seems to have been bland. Amanda Platell in the Mail wrote: the British Government could have suspended the 300+ million we give in aid and threatened the 2000 visas we give to Sudan each year.‚ÄĚ
The Muslim Council of Great Britain is shocked; I watched their representative on BBC News 24, listening in incredulity and disbelief, to a Sudanese representative as he defended this most stupid and hurtful of convictions.
There is also the possibility that the Sudanese government now finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Extreme fundamentalist religious pressure has forced them to imprison an innocent woman over the naming of a symbol of Love after the Prophet and founder of Islam; if they release her too early, they will alienate the fundamentalists in the society they govern; if they keep her in captivity for the offence of accepting the name chosen by the children in her care, they will attract widespread derision and damage even if only slightly, the international perception and standing of what is one of the largest and most devout religions in the world.
It is counter-productive to see extremist Muslim behaviour as in any way representative of the Muslim faith, which preaches tolerance. There are too many examples of religious/political terrorism world-wide, but the extreme level of the violence shown in the twin towers and the London bombings has cast a shadow. Christianity, Judaism and Islam spring from the same root and are related to each other. Relatives however often understand each other least - and fight the most.
The teddy bear saga is as relevant to the Christian as it is to the Muslim, and it would be well for the Christian who thinks that Jesus was a fair-haired aesthetic handsome Nordic man of perfect western morals, to consider what he must have really looked like and to look at how the Christian and Muslim forms of worship interlink - Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Isa and (Jesus) Jesus is very special, no matter what religion is practiced.
As long as it is sincere and from the heart, people of any faith or belief must have the right to say what they think, believe in what they desire and worship as they please and their actions should be seen in the light of the intention behind them - as should the actions of the unfortunate Gillian Gibbons. The Teddy Bear is a symbol of Love which has been responded to with hostility. The Sudanese should have sought to understand that symbol before denouncing it and in consequence, damaging a world religion even if only slightly, through the actions of a few who have the power to control the many.
One of the chief tools of the Priest or the Politician is Fear, aided by Indifference. The punishment of God and the Fear of Hell has kept congregations under control until recently. Now that only a relatively few people really believe in eternal damnation and the punishment of God; church attendance has declined, except for weddings, funerals and other theatrical events. I have been to many excellent churches however - it‚Äôs just that in relation to the number of people who don‚Äôt attend‚Ä¶
I received a reply from a theoretical physicist in response to my question about the existence of God: http://www.psyclops.com/hawking/forum/ (search for thread 77816 ~ A God for an Atheist)
‚ÄúIf God exists, and I firmly believe he does, He is a matter of definition. His existence is implicit to the cosmos, and in certain very definitive ways, very explicit too. [‚Ä¶‚Ä¶] I compare God with a ‚ÄúShark‚ÄĚ out of deference to my atheistic friends‚Ä¶to let them and everybody know that 1. God is not the property of any religion, 2. to infer that God is inscrutable‚Ä¶we can not understand his ways, which sometimes seem ‚Äúshark-like‚ÄĚ to us, and 3. to emphasize that God is in total control of what goes on in the universe‚Ä¶that at its core, the universe is a very deterministic place‚Ä¶QM (quantum mechanics) notwithstanding!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúGod is not the property of any religion‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
But Love is Universal.
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