Winter and the Moon of the New Year
Christmastide ends, Day 12: The Epiphany, Twelfth Night
Wednesday gratefuls: Anger. Trust. Feelings. Love. Rigel. Kep. Kate. The comforter. Cooler. Murdoch’s journey. Christmastide. Pagans. Seekers. Mountain Waste. The stars in their courses. 30 Coins. Eyes. Ears. Brain. Heart. Feet. Hands.
If you’ve followed these, we are at the end, the Twelfth Night of Christmastide. The Orthodox celebration of the incarnation. The three kings came, found the Child of Wonder, left. But on their way out they spoke with King Herod. Yes, the Child exists. Yes, he’s a king. Then left by another route to return home, to say they had found their way to this signal of a new age.
Herod takes the news hard. No infant kings allowed. Male babies under the age of two must die. And so the slaughter of the innocents which we acknowledged and whom we celebrated on Day 3, Children’s Day.
In Merry England the Twelfth Night was another time for the emergence of the fool, for the inversion of roles, for letting go of the amazement of Christmastide in preparation for the now imminent return to ordinary time. We saw this same impulse on Distaff Day and in the male equivalent, Plough Monday.
Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, follows these themes with an exotic setting, gender role reversals, and a role for Feste, the fool. Written in 1601, it was for a performance on Twelfth Night.
Matthews offers another Robert Herrick excerpt:
Ceremony on Candlemass Eve
Down with the Rosemary, and so
Down with the Baies, and Mistletoe:
Down with the Holly, Ivie, all.
Wherewith ye drest the Christmas Hall
That so the the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind:
For look how many leaves there may be
Neglected there (maids trust to me)
So many Goblins you shall see.
Any needles or leaves left in the Christmas Hall would, on the day after Twelfth Night, turn into goblins. A sound reason to finish taking down all the decorations.
Mine are all stored away except two: a shelf sitting Victorian Santa and the string of colored lights over my south facing loft window. Not sure whether I’ll leave them up or not.
If we take the other thread, the pagan/supernatural thread, during Christmastide, Yule, this marks farewell for the Solstice, too. We now know the Sun has committed for another year, the crops and the livestock will feel the heat, the warmth, the energy, the vitality. Whatever fears we had as the nights grew longer and the days colder, have given way to confidence that Spring and Beltane will come once again.
We integrate in this new year the lessons of the darkness. The going deep within ourselves, down to our roots, considering ourselves and our Souls in the most radical way, will nourish our accomplishments in the light of the world.
I hope Christmastide has a somewhat new meaning for you. And that your new year, this ordinary time, will bless you and yours.