Tuesday 31 December 2013

Twenty-Four Knots on the Wheel

We are currently sitting half way between Christmas and Twelfth Night and Epiphany.  In musing about this, some patterns began to emerge.

Epiphany is of course Twelfth Day, and the Eve of Epiphany Twelfth Night. Twelfth days from Christmas, or in the older calendar, from the Solstice.

Traditionally, Jan 6 is both the day Christ was presented in the temple (hence the name Epiphany) and the day the Kings arrived, or, more accurately, they arrived the night before but were present during the day as well. Interestingly, the presentation of Christ is also connected to Candlemas, which is 40 days from Christmas, and Epiphany is also called the Day of Lights, with direct relation to the candles of Candlemas. The 40 day times in traditional usage are important, Ash Wednesday 40 days before Easter, etc. The lore of Bride's Day and Candlemas bring interesting light (no pun intended) to Twelfth Night/Day, Epiphany, and Three Kings Day.  But that's a side point.

In the Eastern Church, Epiphany is the baptism of Christ, the descent (fall?) of the Holy Spirit upon him, his manifestation as the Son of God. This is very much an initiatory event, the baptism a ritual death, the spirit descending much like the Fall of the Watchers and the settling on him as a dove much like later stories of witches and familiar spirits. This is followed, of course, by 40 days in the Wilderness/Wasteland to be tempted, an ordeal, fasting, harsh conditions. The type of thing you return dead, mad, or a poet, in the British Isles. 40 days places it on my birthday, February 15, which is Lupercalia in Rome, the Wolf Festival, a festival to Faunus/Pan, for the protection of flocks. A sacrifice was made in the cave where legend said Romulus and Remus were suckled by the wolf. The rites were said to have been brought from Arcadia (all things tie back to Acadia), the homeland of Pan. Twelve days before the Lupercalia is of course Candlemas.

That's of course using the Gregorian placement of January 6. In the Eastern Church, they use the Julian, so it lands on our January 19, and 40 days is February 28 in the Gregorian.  This places Christmas, of course, on the 6th or 7th of January, so our Epiphany is essentially their Christmas.  The shift obscures, just as the shift from the actual Solstice to what is December 25, where Christmas is celebrated and things are measured.

The 25 of December being Solstice places the 20th or 21st depending on the year as Christmas, so January 1st of 2nd as Epiphany. New Years becomes Epiphany, New Years Eve Twelfth Night. Lupercalia becomes February 10th in our calendar, Candlemas January 29th.

But in effect, the Solstice is the important date, Epiphany 12 days hence, then Bride's Day with Lupercalia 12 days hence, then the Equinox with Easter 12 days hence, then Beltaine, with Pentacost 12 days hence, then the Summer Solstice with the Fourth of July 12 days hence, then Lugh's Day, with Assumption 12 days hence, then the Equinox, with Michaelmas 12 days hence, the Samhain with Feroniae 12 days hence. Approximately. Kalends and Ides.

But, of course, that's only eight. Not the ten months of the early Roman Calendar or the later twelve months that became our own.

The 12 days of course count from the day after, to the Eve. This means approximately 14 days counting the actual days, two weeks, approximately half a moon. 28 days, you get 13 moons, 364 days. A year and a day making 365. 28 and 12 is of course 40 days, so if you take a complete moon cycle from each of the major dates, then 12 before the secondary dates, you get 40 days. So, Solstice + 12, 13 is Epiphany, Epiphany + 28 is Candlemas. Candlemas + 12, 13 is Lupercalia, and so forth. Which means 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, and so forth. 6 weeks, eight majors, you have 48 weeks, 336 days. Which of course is four weeks short, one moon. But this is because it isn't exactly what I implied.

If you add one week before each of the Solstices and Equinoxes, between them and the last marked Ides, you hit real close to the right dates, and get 364 days, 52 weeks, 13 moons.

Going backwards around, 12 days before Christmas (Solstice) is Lucie, my wife's birthday. 12 days before the Autumn Equinox, Holyrood. 12 days before the Nativity of John the Baptist (Solstice) is Whitsun. And 12 days before the Spring Equinox, Lent. The four Ember Days. 40 days before those, Samhain, Lugh's Day, Beltain, and Bride's Day. Approximately, anyway.

12 days before Bride's Day, Beltain, Samhain, Lugh's Day, and Samhain are approximately cusps of Capricorn/Aquarius, Aries/Taurus, Cancer/Leo, and Libra/Scorpio. These are one week after the Ides, and while there are rustic Roman festivals celebrated on these, they are more obscure and doing lend much.

So, Solstice, plus two weeks, Epiphany, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Candlemas, plus two weeks, Lupercalia, plus one week, Lent, plus two weeks, Equinox, plus two weeks, Easter, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Beltain, plus two weeks, Pentecost, plus one week, Whitsun, plus two weeks, Solstice, plus two weeks, the Fourth of July, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Lugh's Day, plus two weeks, Assumption, plus one week, Holyrood, plus two weeks, Equinox, plus two weeks, Michaelmas, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Samhain, plus two weeks, Feroniae, plus one week, Lucie, plus two weeks, Solstice.

Eight days (Solstices, Equinoxes, Bride's, Beltain, Lugh's, and Samhain), with a day twelve days before and twelve after. 24 days.

There are 24 knots in my year, not modeled after these, but it ties in nicely to mine, which are the Bright and Dark Moons closest to each 15 degrees of the Zodiac, the custs and the midpoints.  But the above is close enough to these that I think I need to work through the these and see how they relate to my own cycle, and what lore will come out of it.

~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday 22 December 2013

That One Is More Important: A look at buildings, history, and learning to ask the right questons

"That one is more important."
"Why do I know that?"

It is important to learn to observe.  And it is important to learn to listen.  Especially when it is ourself talking.  And it is important to learn to ask the right questions.  Buildings are important.  Locations are important.  Names are important.  History is important.  Learn to observe.  Learn to listen.  Learn to ask the right questions.

On Friday, I drove into Denver with the intent to go on a tour of the Governor's Residence.  They were doing tours through that day, from 10am-2pm each week day.  This was in  relation to the Christmas decorations that were done this year by the Colorado Interior Design Coalition.  It was supposed to be beautiful.

Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion
Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion
The Governor's Residence is more properly called the Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion.  Previously, it was referred to as the Governor's Mansion.  It was completed in 1908 by Walter Cheesman.  Cheesman was a druggist from Long Island originally and growing up in Chicago, working with his brother to provide the necessities in early Denver.  He made his fortune in real estate and built himself a mansion, which his widow sold to Claude Boettcher in 1923.  Boettcher came from a pioneering family who started with a hardware store selling to miners and built a fortune in many areas including sugar and cement.  The Boettcher Foundation donated the mansion as the residence for the governor in 1959.

I ran into slow traffic on my way from Longmont to Denver, and got there too late.  The tours were until 2pm, and I got to the closed gate at 2:10.  I only got to see it from the road, but it is a gorgeous building.  I walked around it and down the hill past the carriage house, then across Governor's Park below it.  I proceeded up the hill on the other side in the park, and say another mansion to the east of Boettcher Mansion.  My mind spoke, saying, "That one is more important."  I then asked the obvious next question, "Why do I know that?"  "Because it's higher" came the answer.  And I wondered why that was the reason.

High places have always been important.  As are low places.  Study many cultures and peoples in history, and this is quite evident.  There are different reasons for this, in regard to high places.  One is the military element.  A high place sees more of the surrounding area, so gives you more warning of an attack.  Build a tower or raised platform and it becomes more so.  A high place is also easier to defend.  Being above your enemy gives you the advantage, whether you are shooting (shooting arrows, throwing spears, later, shooting guns or cannons, are easier to kill with using gravity to draw them down from a height) or fighting with a melee weapon (you have an advantage swinging down, with gravity helping, over someone swinging up).  Second, there is a power and government element.  Being higher than someone by definition is superior, and this implies power over those below.  Whoever is on the hill above is easily seen as more powerful and more affluentual.  There is also a spiritual aspect, when dealing with sky gods or spirits, the high place is closest to them, just as when dealing with chthonic gods and spirits, the low place is closest, like caves and pits.

So, this second mansion is higher.  So what?  Does the idea above hold water?  Is this second mansion, which is not the Governor's, more important?  It is most definitely higher.  From the atrium of Boettcher Mansion, you can see Pike's Peak on a clear day, which is way south near Colorado Springs.  Boettcher Mansion has an amazing view.  But the balcony on the highest floor of the second mansion is a good fifty feet higher, and looks out above the roof of Boettcher Mansion.  In fact, before the much more recent apartment complexes around it were built, and before the sky scrapers in the Upper Downtown area were built, it would have been the highest point in Denver, with a view incorporating everything to the west of it all the way to the Frontrange, for an amazing panorama.  So it has the height, but was it really more important?  Is it now?

Grant-Humphreys Mansion
Grant-Humphreys Mansion
The second mansion is the Grant-Humphreys Mansion.  It was completed six years before the Boettcher Mansion, in 1902, for $35,000, which was a very large sum at the time.  The original building had 30 rooms and was much bigger than the Boettcher Mansion.  It was built by James Benton Grant.  Grant Street in downtown Denver is not named for the president as I presumed, but for this Grant.  Grant was a plantation owner in Alabama who was impoverished by the Civil War and decided to try to make it back in the mining industry.  He studied in Germany and moved to Leadville, Colorado where he made a fortune with a smelting company.  In 1917, his widow sold the mansion to Albert E. Humphreys.  Humphreys made a fortune three times, only sustaining it on the third.  One was in logging, then in mining, and finally in oil.  The mansion came under the stewardship of the Colorado Historical Society in 1976.

Now, as you can guess, smelting, in a time where mining was the biggest industry in the Frontrange, was a bit more important than, say, drugstores and hardware stores.  Likewise, an oil baron was a bit more influential than the owners of the Boettcher Mansion.  There's a reason the second mansion is larger, higher, and older than the first.

So, I observed.  I looked at two mansions and noted what I could with my senses.  I listened.  I listened to my internal voice, took note when I told myself the second mansion was more important.  And I asked the right questions.  I asked, and through those questions identified why it was so.

And named are important.  They leave legacies, and the places and streets and locations bearing the names lend clues to understanding the history, the impact, and the importance of those that bore the names.  The four names above, each to different degrees, were important in the Denver area and the history of the area.  One of the major roads in Denver was named for Grant, who served as Colorado's third governor, did much for Colorado's trade and commerce industries, and contributed to great extent to education in the state.  The neighbourhood to the east of Capital Hill, on which these two mansions are built, is named for Cheesman, including a park named for him, with many tales of being haunted and a colourful history.  Walter Cheesman has instrumental in developing Denver's water system, and was well known for using his money to help people.  The Boettcher Foundation has been responsible for aiding in many endeavors to improve Colorado, including building projects and educational scholarships.

~Muninn's Kiss

Friday 6 December 2013

Lord of Serpents

Now this is interesting.

From Skáldskaparmál:

These are names of serpents: Dragon, Fáfnir, Mighty Monster, Adder, Nídhöggr, Lindworm, She-Adder, Góinn, Móinn, Grafvitnir, Grábakr, Ófnir, Sváfnir, Hooded One.

Þessi eru orma heiti: dreki, Fáfnir, Jörmungandr, naðr, Níðhöggr, linnr, naðra, Góinn, Móinn, Grafvitnir, Grábakr, Ófnir, Sváfnir, grímr.

This is interesting because of this, from the Grimnismol:

Now am I Othin, | Ygg was I once,
Ere that did they call me Thund;
Vak and Skilfing, | Vofuth and Hroptatyr,
Gaut and Jalk midst the gods;
Ofnir and Svafnir, | and all, methinks,
Are names for none but me.

Óðinn ek nú heiti,
Yggr ek áðan hét,
hétomk Þundr fyrir þat,
Vakr ok Skilfingr,
Váfuðr ok Hroptatýr,
Gautr ok Iálkr með goðom,
Ofnir ok Svafnir,
er ek hygg at orðnir sé
allir af einom mér.

You'll note Svafnir and Ofnir in both lists, with Odin saying in the second that they are names for none but him.  Grímr, also, is used for him in another place, though for other things as well.  The list definitely starts with serpents, Jörmungandr being Loki's son, the World Serpent that circles Midgard, Níðhöggr being the serpent in the Roaring Cauldron who chews on the roots of Yggdrasil, and Fáfnir being the dwarf in the Volsunga Saga that turns to a dragon from greed.  Odin himself, also in the Grimnismol, gives a list:

More serpents there are | beneath the ash
Than an unwise ape would think;
Goin and Moin, | Grafvitnir's sons,
Grabak and Grafvolluth,
Ofnir and Svafnir | shall ever, methinks,
Gnaw at the twigs of the tree.

Ormar fleiri
liggia under aski Yggdrasils
en þat uf hyggi hverr ósviðra apa:
Góinn ok Móinn,
þeir ero Grafvitnis synir,
Grábakr ok Grafvölluðr,
Ofnir ok Svafnir
hygg ek at æ skyli
meiðs kvisto má.

His list has some in common, also including the two he names later as names for himself.
Ofnir means inciter, Svafnir means sleep bringer, or closer.  Doesn't take much thought to see them as opposites, Ofnir inciting to action, Svafnir bringing an end to action.  Catalyst and Nexus.

It's easy to see these as names for Odin, what's harder is to understand why Odin himself says they are names only for him, and and that they will forever gnaw on the tree.  Scholars figure there is likely corruption, that the two names weren't in both lists originally, but this is conjecture, unknown for sure.  If he is calling himself a serpent, there may be a mystery in those names.

~Muninn's Kiss

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