Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cosmic News - M. Kelley Hunter

M. Kelley Hunter

New Year New Moon
Cosmic Daily Weather 2014-coming to Amazon.
2 Astro-Specials: YOU in 2014 & Capricorn Astro-Special
Winter Webinars via the Theosophical Society

Image: detail from Chihully glass exhibit in Montreal.

6:14am EST, 3:14am PST, 11:14am GMT

A New Moon on New Year's Eve ushers in an intensely globe-changing year. Such a rare New Year New Moon is a pretty clear indication that this is a year of new developments. We are in a major transformation, including both immense opportunity and chaos. We live in "interesting times," whether we like it or not. As current global systems show increasing dysfunction on so many levels, new scenarios are necessarily called for. We are each involved in the process of letting of what isn't working, to restructure and redesign our lives. This can be an exciting time, but also one of stress and pressure. We need to find our own way to "go with the flow," taking care of ourselves and each other along the way. Remember what they say on the airplanes: put your oxygen mask on first. Otherwise you are in no shape to be helpful. This is a year for people to gather together, creating mutually supportive communities, making big and small choices that have long-term consequences.

This inaugural New Moon of 2014 is smack-dab in the throes of the ongoing and overarching Pluto-Uranus Square, accompanying major global change-ups in economic-political systems, public awareness and consciousness shifts, along with obvious geo-cosmic activity. With the New Moon closely conjunct Pluto and Mercury, the news will be full of major, possibly shocking revelations as well as power broker negotiations behind the scenes especially during the first week of 2014. New ways of thinking and of operating on daily level, new systems and technologies are sprouting up everywhere, along with increasing exposure of the underbelly of corporate control—and its dismantling. We get right down to the serious business carried on from the last few years as the wheel of life turns a big corner. It is obvious there is no going back to any "normal." Things are clearly not working the old way.

Jupiter and now Mars add their expansive and energetic influences to this major pattern for the first half of the year, significantly raising the stakes another notch. Weigh your options and discuss them with others. A variety of viewpoints bring new insights. Differing opinions may incite arguments, yet help clarify where we stand. Finding the balance between caution, indecision and initiative may be tricky. Don't be too hasty to act, but don't hold back when you feel truly ready to move forward. There is no need for premature decisions. Decisions are not easily made, as we may not have all the information needed. Much is being decided behind closed doors in a shift of power. Various players push their agendas. Don't believe everything you hear. Follow the money. Look for the rewards. Stay tuned. See where you can offer help to others without compromising what feels right for you and what you need.

Re-evaluate and rework your life plan with sincere New Year's resolutions that you intend to follow. There's an advertisement on U.S. TV with a young boy talking about making New Year's "revolutions"? He's got it right!

Venus is retrograde all of January, the biggest planetary theme of the month. We will be constantly reevaluating plans and taking into account the continuing global economic-political restructuring. Many businesses are likely to close their doors or prepare to do so; others, tuning into the trends of the time, begin a successful run. Cooperative ventures seeking the mutual win-win are in order. In Capricorn along with Pluto, Venus seriously suggests that we conserve resources and carefully consider any necessary purchases, seeking long-term value. Watch any tendency to buy things as a reward, a habit that is not emotionally or economically rewarding. Shopaholics beware. Consumerism is clearly going out of fashion, being redefined by educated buyers who vote with their dollars for those businesses who address the global agenda rather than define success by the bottom line alone. This doesn't mean restricting your pleasure or being miserly. We want to keep the money flowing, but in a way that adds richness to our lives, not superficiality.

There is a unique and interesting aspect to the Venus retrograde cycles I want to note. Venus has a highly aesthetic cycle, with five repeating retrograde periods every eight years. The five locations of these retrogrades trace a five-pointed star, a pentagram, around the Zodiac. This means that every eight years, Venus turns retrograde in these same places in our charts, encouraging a life-long improvement in certain areas of our lives. In reference to the current retrograde, look back to December-January 2005-6, 1998-9, 2000-2001, etc. to review what these preceding cycles have meant to you. Perhaps you may perceive repeating themes.

Each of the five cycles begins on the same day as the previous time, minus two days and, therefore, minus two degrees in the Zodiac position. It takes 120 years for a particular Venus retrograde cycle to move through a sign of the Zodiac. This is the first one that has started retrograde in Capricorn for over a thousand years, I figure, giving us another highly qualitative factor to make this a NEW New Year.

When retrograde, Venus brings up the question: How can you improve your life and how you feel about it all? This period also suggests emotional withdrawal and inner questioning, as we evaluate how we are feeling about our life situations. Several extended Void of Course Moon periods add more space to this process. This is not an easy time for relationships, as we each need to take stock of what is right for us without accommodating partners in a way that compromises self integrity, self esteem, effective action and growth of both partners. This fosters emotional maturity, yet with a potential edge of depression. Don't let it get you down. The lesson is that you are responsible for your own feelings, so work with that. Don't waste emotional energy on worrying. Recalibrate into a more uplifted feeling by appreciating the good things in life. Then you're in right alignment to take care of the business at hand.

A New Moon on New Year augurs powerful new beginnings. As we reconsider the long-term potential in our situations, we see there is room for qualitative improvement in relation to the larger living Earth awakening in which we are participating. Let's be worthy of these times. Let's come together make 2014 a key year in this great Renaissance.

Let's make our New Year's revolutions full of harmony, love, beauty, quality, sacredness, holiness......You add to this list!

old and new friends and clients, some I've met and some not,
cherished colleagues,
and so many I do not know
all around our world—
I warmly wish you all the very best in this New Year rebirth time.

Click here for the entire article.

Bye Bye, 2013!

Inviting change to stay is allowing our selves to be truly transformed. The evolution of change is a sincere living, breathing transformation of you. 

So, perhaps it’s not true — a New Year’s Resolution can transform your life, but given the odds it will more likely change your life for a short period of time unless you, we and I keep going to create, allow and become a walking, breathing act of transformation. 
Here are some tips for building sustainable change: 
#1 Practice moment-to-moment being. Presence is true freedom, true wealth and a true sense of being. You can choose to live in the experiences of the past or in the fictitious worries of the future. Or, you can choose to live in a rhythm of ease and response within the present moment allowing yourself to be fully available for what is needed within each breath. 
Refuse to become a slave to the perceived time-space continuum and instead, live this practice of freedom, moment by glorious moment – right now. 
#2 How will you grow if you are never challenged? It is possible to dream and live big, while still having time to meditate, to patiently nourish your body with nutritious meals, to get the laundry done and spend time with beloved family and friends. Truly live your purpose and life will wrap its arms around you. Challenging ourselves to live our truths may not always seem easy, but it can become one of the best anti-depressants, and inspire the life around you to do the same.
Living truthfully also creates a mastery of focus — and, where focus goes, love, creativity and transformation grows. 
#3 Allow your goals to unfold. They will evolve, blossom, expand, shift and revolutionize as you continue to transform. Your goals, if held delicately without gripping, will become your biggest sponsor, your most congenial cheerleader, and if allowed, they’ll continue to invite you into a space of non-attached growth and abundance beyond what you ever thought possible. 
And, don’t forget to acknowledge the fruits of your effort. Life is always speaking to us, holding us and acknowledging our presence. Feel the effects of your efforts, even in the slightest. Nothing is in vain. 
#4 Invite consistency and commitment. Consistency and commitment invites strength and positive forces into our lives. They are the initiation of change and eventually open the flood gates for transformation. These two elements can help us to create and divulge clarity and vision. A healthy structured life that contains a consistent and committed source of nourishment — one that nourishes us deeply without rigidity – can help us to allow our dreams to come to life. What makes up a consistent, committed structured life? The stuff we know we should be doing…everyday. 
You are the creator, the alchemist, the explorer and the artistic expression of you. 
#5 Use your body. It’s the best instrument you could ever have to experience this life. Your body is waiting for you to explore and sculpt it. It’s waiting for you to reveal its wisdom. Use it to lift the world and to express your authentic self. Seek a loving connection and embrace, shine and flourish in your perceived imperfection…and, not as the body you had yesterday or ten years ago…the one you have right now. 
Don’t wait for the last song to move, cherish and feel the sensations — the deep creative wisdom of your body. 
#6 Workout your Gratitude Muscle. Gratitude for the little things. Gratitude for the big things. Gratitude for the experiences we have yet to find words for. 
Gratitude for what is yet to be revealed. 
Gratitude for being here. 
#7 Rest—Recover—Rejuvenate. Allow yourself to experience ease, to regroup and to relish within periods of doing less, not more. Get enough rest, enough greens, enough hydration. Get enough you time, enough nature, enough art, enough movement. Allow yourself to step away from technology, work, your to-do list and your schedule. A matter of fact, allow yourself to break all your rules. 
Listen intuitively and although there is much to be done and life seems to call us to action in so many ways, don’t forget to be. 
Return to #1.

Read the rest of the article here.

Art work by the incredible Jackie Morris!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Natural Beauty - Kea Parrot of New Zealand

The kea is an unusual parrot. It is the only truly alpine parrot in the world, and gained early notoriety among settler farmers for attacks on their sheep. Innately curious, kea are attracted to people wherever they enter its mountain domain, and are a feature at South Island ski-fields and mountain huts. Their attraction to people and their paraphernalia is a two-edged sword, providing both new threats and new opportunities.
The kea is a large, strong-flying, olive-green parrot with scarlet underwings and a slender grey-black bill. Sexually dimorphic, female body mass is about 20% less than males and the bill is shorter. Juveniles have yellow ceres and eyelids, which fade to grey as the bird matures.
The commonest call is a long, loud, high-pitched descending cry which may be broken “kee-ee-aa-aa”, or unbroken “keeeeeaaaa”. Many quiet contact calls are given. Juvenile calls are less stable in tone, being more of a loud uncontrolled whooping or squealing.
Kea are unlikely to be confused with other species. Kaka are smaller, olive-brown and very rarely seen above the timberline. They excavate the wood of live trees, whereas keas do not. Kaka have more varied calls, including fluting whistles and harsh grating ‘skraaarks’. The extremely rare and localised kakapo is larger, flightless and nocturnal. It is yellow-green rather than olive-green and lacks a scarlet underwing.
Distribution and habitat
Kea range over about four million hectares along the axial ranges of the South Island, from Farewell Spit to Waitutu, plus the Kaikoura Ranges. They can be found from coastal dunes to high alpine peaks, but are most common in montane forests and adjacent subalpine and alpine zones. They are absent from the Marlborough Sounds, Catlins, Blue Mountains and both the North Island and Stewart Island.
Kea mainly nest within native forest. Their foraging habitat includes all types of native forest, sub-alpine scrub, tussock and herb-field. They socialise on prominent rocky outcrops and windy saddles above or below the timberline, and are frequently reported in pine forests adjacent to native forest.
You can read the rest of the article here.

Image via Biology 101 FB page.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I'll be waiting....

Santeria in the Woods?

Yesterday morning, around 8:35, Kylie and I were on our usual walk through the fields and into the woods.  Well, Kylie heads into the woods and I stand on the path to the woods.  I used to walk in with her, but since Sandy knocked down a large tree across the path, I just watch and wait for her.

Here is what the path looked like after Sandy and what it still looks like.  The fallen tree is still there - the Parks people have not cleared anything away.

Yesterday, on top of that fallen tree I saw three things:  an open bottle of red wine, with about a glass of it poured out; a basket filled with fruit and flowers - pineapple, oranges, apples and small yellow mums; a large black trash bag that was filled with "something."  These objects were not here the day before - I walk here at least twice a day and at 4 pm on Thursday, they were not there.

Being curious, I went closer and had the immediate feeling that the items were left as an offering of some sort - their placement seemed deliberate.  There are a couple of picnic tables, grills and a little "picnic house" which would have seemed like the places where forgotten items were left - but these objects were placed on the trunk on the fallen tree, as if the tree were an altar.

Santeria??  That was the first thing I thought.

I did peek into the bag to see what was in there and saw what looked like seasonal decorations and something that was wrapped and felt heavy.  Since I am averse to putting my hands into places that I do not know and since I felt like I would be interfering with something that did not include me, I left the objects undisturbed, other than placing some of the flowers that had blown out of the basket back into the basket.

I thought it was kind of strange that I would stumble upon this in this particular area - that I know of, there are no Santeria practitioners in our little town (I could be wrong, though!) and usually people come to this area only in Spring and Summer.  I do know of some Wiccan folks who use the area for their celebrations - and I have participated in them.

Yesterday afternoon, Kylie and I walked in the same area and, to my surprise, the objects were still there, in the same order.  Any doubts that the objects were left as an offering faded.  I only hoped that whatever the ritual, it was a peaceful one.  I know only a little about Santeria, but I kept getting the feeling that what I was seeing was part of that tradition.

Yes, I admit the stories of ritual goat or chicken sacrifices wandered into my mind - I think if I knew for sure what was in that big trash bag, I wouldn't have thought that - but that bag was just a tad too weird for me and my imagination went to those stories and movies that demonize Santeria, Voudou, Candomble and other "spooky" religions, along with the "if you see something, say something" crusade of fear that permeates the airwaves.  So, I did call our local police who have no jurisdiction over County Parks and the guy wasn't too interested in my story.  He did give me the phone number for the County Park sheriff; their voice mail was on and I decided not leave a message.

I did call a friend and left a long message on her voice mail because I usually want to talk about something that I can't figure out - talking helps me hear what I am thinking and helps me look at and examine those thoughts with some of the charge removed.  She returned my call this morning, waking me out of a deep sleep that had been filled with strange dreams, and suggested that I take my iPhone with me this morning to get pictures if the objects were still there.

And they were.

But not in the same place or condition that I originally saw them.  Here are some of the pictures that I took.  You can click on the images to enlarge them.

Seeing the candles was really interesting to me - I have heard of Oya, but never Orunmila.  Here's some information that I found about them.

Oya (also known as Yansa or Yansan) is a powerful female warrior orisha, one of Shango's wives, owner of the marketplace, owner of the cemetery and the ruler of winds. She, along with Orunmila, are the only two orishas who defeated Ikú, the force of death. She stole Shango's secret of fire and now throws lightning bolts just like him. She raises up the dead and commands them as her armies. She carries a machete and screams as she rides into battle on the tornado. 
Oya is often depicted as a muscular, dark, and seductive black woman, dressed in a skirt of 9 different colors, wielding a machete in one hand and a horse-tail fly-whisk in the other. Her shrine is a glazed ceramic pot, usually maroon or multicolored, filled with her mysteries and 18 loose cowries for diloggun, through which she speaks. The pot is topped with a copper crown from which hang 9 different tools. A large, dried seed pod from the red-flowered flamboyant tree (also known as the flame tree or royal poinciana) is used to speak with her by shaking it while praying at her shrine. There is only one road or avatar of Oya. Her ritual number is 9. Her beaded necklace usually features brown beads with white and black stripes, along with coral beads. Her garments are maroon with 9 different colors. Animal sacrifice is used to propitiate Oya within the African Traditional Religions. Sacrifices to Oya include: she-goat, hens, pigeons and guinea hens. She abhors ram, lamb, or mutton, and animal sacrifices of members of this species are strictly taboo for her. altar offerings for Oya include eggplant, chocolate, pomegranate, plums, and multi-colored flowers. 
In the syncretic practices of Cuban Santeria, in which African orishas are associated with Catholic Church saints, the representatives of Oya are Our Lady of Candelaria and Saint Theresa and her feast day is February 2. Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers, and root doctors who are adherents of the Yoruban and Yoruban-Diasporic Religions and who petition the orishas on behalf of clients may work with Oya when there are pending issues involving money and business, protection and warding off evil, steady work and personal power, mediumship and working with spiits of the dead, breaking jinxes and reversing curses, and spiritual revenge or curing an enemy,

Orunmila (also known as Orula, Orunla, or Ifa) is the orisha of divination. He is the "eleripin" -- the witness of destiny -- who knows everything that awaits us as part of our fate. He has a very close working relationship with Eleggua and together they intercede on behalf of humanity to alter people's destinies, ward off death and other misfortunes, and guide us to cultivate good character. His worship is primarily centered around the Ifá tradition, both in traditional African worship and in the African diaspora in the new world, where his initiated priests, called awos, babalawos, iyanifas or oluwos, act as diviners for the greater community. He is petitioned for help with making wise decisions, opening roads, healing, protection from evil. 
Orunmila is typically depicted as a wise, old, black man wearing robes with a diviner's pouch hanging from a long necklace around his neck. His ritual tools include 18 ikin (palm nuts), the okuelé (a chain of 8 shell husks used to divine), and the opón ifá (table of ifa) upon which he makes marks in a ritually prepared dust to determine a person's destiny, in a system similar to that of Geomancy. These methods speak using 256 odu (signs) to describe a person's energy and circumstances as well as how to overcome misfortunes. Orunmila's shrine is typically a small carved wooden vessel (like a covered bowl) containing his mysteries. There is only one avatar of Orunmila. His ritual number is 16. His beaded necklace consists of alternating yellow and green beads. His garments are green and yellow. Animal sacrifice is used to petition Orunmila within the African Traditional Religions. His sacrifices include: she-goats and hens. altar offerings to Orunmila are determined through divination. 
In the syncretic practices of Cuban Santeria, in which African orishas are associated with Catholic Church saints, the representative of Orunmila, the "witness of destiny," is Saint Francis, who, in a vision, witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Hoodoo pyschic readers, spirit workers and root doctors who are adherents of the Yoruban and Yoruban-Diasporic Religions who petition the orishas on behalf of clients may work with Orunmila when seeking guidance through divination regarding blessing, healing, protection from evil, cleansing, uncrossing, spirituality, psychic abilities, wisdom and success.

The texts above came from here and here.

I hesitate to try and interpret what the offerings mean for I believe that only the one who made them knows their reason.

May the petitioner find what she/he is looking for.  Ashé.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Natural Beauty - Polar Bear mom and cubs

Basic Facts About Polar Bears

Polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world, rivaled only by the Kodiak brown bears of southwestern Alaska. Polar bears sit at the top of the food chain in the biologically rich Arctic. The most carnivorous of the bear species, polar bears feed primarily on the fat of ice-dependent seals. The remains of these seals provide food for many other Arctic wildlife species, giving polar bears a vital role in their ecosystem.
Polar Bear, © Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock
© Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock

Polar bears are marine mammals, and spend much of their time on Arctic sea ice. Many adaptations make polar bears uniquely suited to life in icy habitats. Their fur is thicker than any other bears’ and covers even their feet for warmth and traction on ice. A thick layer of blubber beneath their fur provides buoyancy and insulation. The long neck and narrow skull of the polar bear probably aid in streamlining the animal in the water while warming the air that they breathe, and their front feet are large, flat and oar-like, making them excellent swimmers.

Did You Know?

Polar bears have black skin to absorb heat and white fur to blend in with their environment.


Polar bears feed almost exclusively on ringed seals and bearded seals. They are also known to eat walrus, beluga whale and bowhead whale carcasses, birds’ eggs, and (rarely) vegetation. Polar bears travel great distances in search of prey.


The World Conservation Union (IUCN) estimates that there are between 20,000-25,000 polar bears in the world.

Range & Habitat

Polar bears are only found in the Arctic. The most important habitats for polar bears are the edges of pack ice where currents and wind interact, forming a continually melting and refreezing matrix of ice patches and leads (open spaces in the ocean between sea ice). These are the areas of where polar bears can find the greatest number of seals.

As the sea ice advances and retreats each season, individual polar bears may travel thousands of miles per year to find food. Polar bears are distributed throughout the Arctic region in 19 subpopulations, including Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway.

Did You Know?

The polar bear is the largest and most carnivorous member of the bear family.


Polar bears are highly dependent on older stable pack ice in the Arctic region, where they spend much of their time on the ice hunting, mating and denning. They are generally solitary as adults, except during breeding and cub rearing. Polar bears are strong swimmers, and individuals have been seen in open Arctic waters as far as 200 miles from land, although swimming long distances is not preferred since it requires so much energy for adults and can be fatal to younger bears.

Unlike brown bears, males and non-breeding females do not hibernate in the winter.

Did You Know?

At birth, polar bear cubs are 12 to 14 inches long and weigh around one pound.


Pregnant polar bears need to eat a lot in the summer and fall build up enough fat reserves to survive the denning period. They seek out maternity dens in October or November. Most maternity dens are located on land where snow accumulates including along coastal bluffs, river banks or pressure ridges on sea ice.  Sows give birth to usually 1 or 2 one-pound cubs and then nurse them until they reach about 20-30 pounds before emerging from the den in March or April. The young are born from November through January while the mothers are hibernating. Cubs will remain with their mothers for a little over 2 years. Female polar bears can produce five litters in their lifetime, which is one of the lowest reproductive rates of any mammal.

Mating Season: Late March - May
Gestation: About 8 months with delayed implantation
Litter size: 1 - 4 cubs; though 1 or 2 cubs is most common

Text from here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I Am Light...

Photos taken by my sister Jacki...lovely music by India Arie.

The Lost Female Figures of Christmas - Carolyn Emerick

The Lost Female Figures of Christmas

Part I

It may come as a surprise that there were a great many female figures associated with this time of year that have been obscured from much of our contemporary memory. Many of these figures are still popular in their home countries. But, America has a very different historical landscape when it comes to holiday practice, and it is the American brand of Christmas that has recently been exported to non-Western parts of the world.

Much has been said about Santa Claus being an amalgam of influences, and especially about his image being based on the Germanic god Odin. But, it is important to realize that there were many other holiday figures, both male and female, that did not find their way over to our modern American Christmas celebrations. German male figures such as Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht are coming up more and more in news and entertainment media. So I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the female side of Old Yule.

Mōdraniht - Mothers Night

A great place to start is the Germanic holiday of Mōdraniht. This holiday was part of the Yule festivities. Many people already know that the Twelve Days of Christmas comes from the fact that Yule was not just a one day celebration, but rather a festival that lasted for several days before and after the Winter Solstice.

Mōdraniht is literally translated as Mothers Night, or Night of the Mothers. We don't know a lot about this celebration because it would have been suppressed after conversion to Christianity. We do know that it was a time to celebrate motherhood and probably other female ancestors. This celebration of the feminine may be related to the age old correlation between the fertility of women with fertility of crops, and with rebirth of new life. The Winter Solstice, after all, celebrated the rebirth of the Sun and lengthening of days.

Just as it is in other indigenous religions, ancestor veneration was a very important aspect of Germanic spirituality. Both male and female ancestors were honored. But, it seems that female ancestors played an important role as guardians of the family line.

Hervor, a renowned shieldmaiden attested to in the Poetic Edda.  She is shown here dying after a battle.
Hervor, a renowned shieldmaiden attested to in the Poetic Edda. She is shown here dying after a battle.

The Important Roles of Germanic Women

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that women were often the ones home guarding the homestead while men were off at war, raiding, or trading. We do know that like the Celts, Germanic women were often trained to wield a sword. Although women on the battle field was not as common as men, it was not uncommon either. There are accounts of female bravery in battle, and it is known that certain battle tactics were designed specifically for the shield maidens. So, it might be that the women who tended the homestead were seen as strong protectresses by their children. Indeed, many Germanic female names have elements of strength and battle in them. For example, the name Mathilde translates as "mighty battle maiden."

Whatever the case may be, we know that female ancestors remained a prominent element in Germanic heathen religion. They were celebrated not only during Mōdraniht, but they also enjoyed another holiday during the Autumnal Equinox - Dísablót. While Mōdraniht is attested in Anglo-Saxon sources, Dísablót is attested in the Norse. However, both cultures share a linguistic and cultural heritage.

Also, votive inscriptions along the Rhine demonstrate that a cult of "the Mothers" (also called Matres and Matrones) existed in southern Germany, Gaul, and Northern Italy. Half of the inscriptions are Germanic, while the other half are Celtic. This again demonstrates that the Old Religion placed a high emphasis on celebrating maternity and the feminine.

Mōdraniht was celebrated on the date that we now call Christmas Eve. So this year, raise a glass and toast to your own mother, grandmother, aunts, great-aunts, and all the women who have helped raise you and yours. This is surely an old custom that can be appreciated by people of any religion today!

The Norse Goddess Idunna. She guards the apples that give eternal life to the gods.
The Norse Goddess Idunna. She guards the apples that give eternal life to the gods.

Obstacles in Getting to Our Roots

There are many aspects of folklore, tradition, and folk custom that have very deep roots. We must remember that some traditions have been immersed in Christian practice for many years, but their true origins exist in the dark crevices of old heathen custom.

The origin of such practices can be difficult to identify for a variety of reasons. The pre-Christian cultures in Northern Europe passed on their wisdom, histories, poetry, and myths orally. So in most cases, they didn't leave written records.

Another major obstacle is the way that the Catholic Church absorbed paganism, at the same time re-branding and replacing specific customs and figures. Gods became saints, pagan holidays became Christian ones. This comes as no shock to most readers. Most Christians are well aware that Christ was not born in December, that Easter is named for the pagan fertility festival in honor of the goddess Eostre, and so forth. It is commonly known that the Catholic cult of saints arose to turn people away from local deities.

You can read the rest of this fascinating article here.
Part II is here.

Carolyn Emerick's FB page is here.  Her website is still under construction and can be found here.

Ho Ho Ho - Merry Christmas!

(Image from here, via FB - Hump Day!)

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas

A harp seal pup.
Merry Christmas! We present you with what, we hope, will be the least irritating rendition of this song ever. Enjoy. (And you're welcome.)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, OnEarth gave to me …
a flock of puffins.
Twelve puffins puffing.

A raft of otters.
Eleven furballs floating.

A rookery of elephant seals.
Ten seals a-sunning.

a flock of penguins.
Nine penguins prancing.

A troop of snow monkeys.
Eight thumbs o-pposing.

A bevy of swans.
Seven swans a-swimming.

a pod of walruses
Six tons a-laying.

Fiiiiive musk-ox-en.

A slueth of grizzlies.
Four hauling cubs.

A sleuth of polar bears.
Three white bears.

A pack of wolves.
Two timber wolves.

And a raptor in a bare tree.
Happy Holidays

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Natural Beauty - Canada Lynx

Canada lynx description    

GenusLynx (1)

The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is a muscular, leggy cat with forelimbs that are slightly shorter than the hind-limbs, lending it a slightly stooped appearance (3) (4). In common with other lynx species, the triangular ears are tipped with conspicuous tufts of black hair, while the lengthy cheek hair gives the impression of a ruff around the neck, especially over winter (3) (5). A particularly characteristic feature is the large paws, which spread widely and are covered in long, dense fur, enabling the lynx to run on the surface of deep snow (3) (5) (6). Although somewhat variable, the long, thick coat is typically buff grey and unmarked (2). The upperparts may have a grey, frosted appearance in winter, and the undersides are light in colour with mottled dark spots. The tail is stubby and the tip is completely black (3) (5). There is little geographic variation in size, but males are slightly larger than the females (3).
Also known as
Canadian lynx.
Lynx Du Canada.
Lince Del Canadá, Lince Lel Canadá.
Head-body length: 76 - 106 cm (2)
Average shoulder height: 48 - 56 cm (3)
Tail length: 5 - 12 cm (2)
Average weight: 5 - 17 kg (3)

You can continue reading this article here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice - When Darkness Nurtures Light by Judith Shaw

I found this article over at Feminism and Religion and loved it.  Am reblogging it here.

If you have never been over to Feminism and Religion, take a stroll over there for some fascinating and thought provoking articles by many women.  You will not be disappointed.


Winter Solstice – When Darkness Nurtures Light by Judith Shaw

photo of Judith Shaw, painter of Goddesses, trees and other beautiful things of natureIn the Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice, usually December 21,  heralds both the time of deepest darkness and the beginning of the return to light.  It is a liminal day offering a transformation from darkness to light.
In the mid-latitudes in the ten days after the winter solstice the hours of sunlight increase by only a few seconds up to a minute or so.  The world slows down allowing a time to relish the quiet of long nights and the inspiration of winter dreams.
Inanna's Descent, painting by Judith ShawOur ancestors through out the world honored an aspect of the Dark Goddess at this time.  Inanna, ancient Sumerian Goddess, played many roles for Her people.  She was maiden, queen, gift giver, lover, and wife.  She became a Dark Goddess when she heard the call of the Underworld, which was ruled by Her sister, Erishkigal.  She passed through the seven gates and entered Her sister’s realm, naked and bowed low.  She  died and was reborn.  But She was transformed by Her experience of the darkness, gaining maturity, depth and clarity of vision. She was required to choose an alternative to take Her place, assuring the cyclical nature of transformation.  This was not an easy choice but She chose Her husband, Dumuzi. Out of all Her relations he was the only one who had not mourned Her death but instead had rejoiced in the resultant increase in his power.
One of the most well known stories about the transformative nature of this time of darkness is the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter, Earth Goddess of Grain had a daughter, Persephone.  Persephone lived in the golden glow of her Mother’s love and protection.
But like all youth she was compelled by curiosity and divine force to begin a journey of completion.  Persephone was walking in a meadow one day and she saw the beautiful narcissus flower – the flower of death. As she reached down to pick the flower, the earth split open, releasing Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. Hades then took Persephone, willingly or otherwise, in a Spiral Dance into the shadows of the underworld.
Persephone, painting by Judith Shaw
During this time Demeter was wild with grief.  She searched and searched for Persephone.  When She learned the truth of her abduction She caused all vegetation to die and wither on the vine.  Finally, with Zeus’s urging, Hades relented and released Persephone.  But before She reached the Land of Living she ate six pomegranite seeds thus sealing her fate of eventual return.
Like Inanna, she returned changed. She was filled with wisdom and knowledge of existence outside of her Mother’s realm. She had learned the power of transformation; from death to rebirth, from dark to light, lost to found, chaos to clarity, fear to transcendence.  And she was the one who must return to the Underworld for six months every year, recognizing the transformative power of darkness and the cyclical nature of transformation.
The ancient Celts also recognized a goddess at this time. The Cailleach (KAL-y-ach), which literally translates as the “Veiled One” is an ancient Dark Goddess whose origins are unknown.  When the Celts arrived in Ireland and Scotland She was there. She is the embodiment of winter, clothing the land with the whiteness of snow, ending the time of growth with the time of death and darkness.  As “The Veiled One”, in the quiet, dark of winter, She rules the hidden worlds, reigning over our dreams and inner realities.
The Cailleach, Celtic Goddess, painting by Judith Shaw
In one of Her stories, The Cailleach, as an old hag, seeks love from the hero.  If he accepts Her, She then transforms into a beautiful young woman, symbolizing the transformation occurring in the depths of winter when the seeds lay dormant in the earth.  Yet alive within this dormancy is the promise of rebirth in the spring, when Brigid picks up the mantle of the Goddess.
The Cailleach is the guardian of the life force, finding and nourishing the seeds, commanding the power of life and death. She personifies death and the transformative power of darkness.  She leads us through death to rebirth.
The Winter Solstice is a perfect night to light a candle and meditate on the wisdom of these Goddesses. They invite us down the path toward our inner darkness, through the barren surface into the unconscious depths where healing and new life begins. They teach us that we must take charge of this journey of transformation fueled by our dreams, introspections and inspirations. They teach us that on the other side of every fear we find freedom; we must die to our old ways in order to be reborn.  This quiet, dark time allows us to arrive at deeper levels of understanding and perception. May your night be warm and filled with dreams of inspiration.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life.  Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork.  She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time.  She is currently hard at work on a deck of Celtic Goddess cards. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at http://judithshawart.com

Happy Solstice, Welcome Yule!

(Image from here)

The Shortest Day 

by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive,

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – Listen!!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, fest, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!!

(Image from here)

Heavenly Message by Melissa - Solstice, 2013

Heavenly Messages by Melissa

Light and Dark Dancing

In the midst of our hectic lives, dealing with rapidly changing times there is comfort in the fact that the Winter Solstice arrives as it has since the dawn of time. The yin/yang cycle of the return of the light is here as the days gradually begin to lengthen. This is the day when the Sun enters Capricorn and marks the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere – the exact moment when the wheel of the seasons turns. This year the Winter Solstice (Summer in the Southern hemisphere) is on 12/21 at 12:11p Eastern Time  – 5:11p Universal Time. 

Find fun and interesting facts about the Solstice at Farmer’s Almanac  and EarthSky always has good info on the Solstices and is a great site in general.

The Solstice chart is the birth chart of this new season and indicates trends for the upcoming months. On this day the Sun always enters craggy earth sign Capricorn, which is ruled by “Lord of the Material World” Saturn.

This year’s Solstice chart is not tightly concentrated as in some years. It has a scatter-shot planetary configuration which indicates less focus but greater flexibility. A dominant feature is the long standing tense cardinal cross hanging in the heavens, but it also intimates positive energies to come.  All planets are in forward motion except for huge and mighty Jupiter who retrogrades in watery, emotional Cancer as if to say: “Private emotions create stronger tides than anyone wants to admit."

The Sun as always is at 0* Capricorn and at the Solstice moment begins to move toward Pluto in Capricorn adding energy to a T-Square (double 90 angles) to Mars in Libra and Uranus in Aries. This uneasy configuration re-emphasizes challenges between forces who want to maintain the status quo at any cost (ex: Assad in Syria) and the forces of change be they covert (eg: NSA leaker Snowden) or overt (eg: Ukranian protesters).

Here in the US militant Mars calmed by his travels in diplomatic Libra gave a large boost to the budget compromise just passed by Congress. It’s not perfect but at least it ends the divisive and ugly budget battles until 2015 which is a rare miracle in Washington these days -  thank you Mars! Mercury traveling in optimistic Sagittarius must have helped out too. On the Solstice Mercury flies at 25* Sagittarius tapping into the Galactic Center. This cosmic messenger helps continue a positive Saggie vibe and uplift mind and communication to the highest level possible. A nice omen for the season.

Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, maintains his powerful position in intense Scorpio. Like the wizard behind the curtain, Saturn/Scorpio wants to direct attention elsewhere so no one realizes the true situation. The Moon, which represents the public, is in regal Leo and forms a challenging square to Saturn. She is in no mood to be ignored and will let Saturn know it too! In fact, a Leo Moon gives a boost to those wanting to pull back the curtain to expose the puppet masters. The fact that change-agent Uranus moves forward again in testy Aries at the Solstice is another indicator of people waking up and demanding to know why so few hold the boot down on so many.

While the Moon feels cranky toward Saturn, Jupiter does not. Huge Jupiter is retorgrade in emotionally driven Cancer, and Saturn in Scorpio reaches out to re-form part of the Grand Water Trine gracing the heavens off and on since the Summer. Jupiter retro in Cancer is focused more internally at the moment, minding the business of family and keeping the home warm and safe against the winter winds. At the Solstice Saturn sends a text telling Jupiter to remain optimistic, the healing flow returns with the Spring.

The 21st is also the day when Venus in Capricorn goes retrograde at 4:53pm ET just a few hours after the Solstice arrives, so although she is direct at the moment of the Solstice her energy is slow. Venus is a loving help-mate in the heavens who always has your back. Venus in Capricorn is a steel magnolia – capable and imposing with the strength to withstand anything that comes her way, yet soft and feminine with an inner magnetic glow. The fact that Venus goes retrograde the day of the Solstice chills her warm nature, as if she feels winter’s icy cold more than in other years.  See my post on Venus Retrograde for more information.  Here is a good article from Celestial Light Astrology on Venus retro through each house.

Neptune and Chiron in spiritual Pisces are off in their own cosmic corner discussing how to help the world better understand the power of Love in Action. Pope Francis is an emissary for this heavenly message and it is fascinating to watch how people respond to his teachings. The masses have fallen in love with this People’s Pope who walks his talk and reaches out with hands of peace and comfort to those in need yet is not afraid to chastise selfishness and greed. While those who resist his message of sharing and caring for all God’s children throw stones of malice and circle their wagons to hide from this new glare. Here are a few highlights of what Pope Francis’ has done this year. This Pisces message is a raised whisper at the Solstice but as time moves on gets louder and louder. When the Spring Equinox arrives it will be very hard to ignore!

All in all this new season has a bit of this and a dollop of that, without much gravy to cover it all. It is up to each one to tend to your inner flame. Spend more time with yourself and your loved ones and you’ll find just the right spice to bring out your flavor of choice.

Bright Blessings to you and yours at this time of ascending light!

IMAGE NOTE: This is a photo taken during a Solar Eclipse in January 2010. It perfectly captures the play between light and dark at this Solstice time. I’ve had it saved since then and would love to attribute it, but at this point I’m not sure where I found it, nor who took this amazing picture.