On Christmas Eve, the festival of the Nativity, time seems to stand still. For as long as I can remember, the elements grow calm on Christmas Eve. Even storms that have been forecast seem to hold back on that evening, as a mantel of stillness spreads around the globe. For on that night, the earth remembers the birth of the one called the Prince of Peace.
The sacred hour of Christmas happens at midnight, the darkest time of the night. At midnight, when the earth is wrapped in sleep, it remembers the birth of light that happened long ago, at the turning point of time. At that hour, a child was born who would prepare himself to become the earthly bearer of the World Creator, the Christ. It is said that this birth had been prepared over long ages of time. For earth evolution to take its next step, it was necessary that a human being would be born who would be able to sustain the purity of soul, the strength and health of the body, and the clarity of consciousness necessary to receive into himself the divine I-AM. The constitution of this child was so harmonious that body, soul and spirit would be able to be in perfect harmony. This person, the first Son of Man, would embody the prototype that all human beings can evolve towards.
On that cold and dark night in the Middle East, the earthly journey of this human child began in great humility. The Gospel of St. Luke tells us that Jesus was born in the most simple of circumstances. His mother gave birth to her son in a stable, possibly in a cave. Nestled into a manger, he was received into the earth even as a seed is laid into the ground. Around he stood were the goodly animals of the stable, kind creatures who embody the pure elements of the soul.
An old legend tells that those animals in the stall that witnessed the birth of the child who would embody the World Creator, the Cosmic Word, were able to understand human speech on that night. Even as the rocks and the plants, even as the simple shepherds who came to offer their gifts and the angels in the skies, the beasts of the stable were present to welcome his coming. And for that, on that one night, they were released from their mute language and become our soul-kin. And even today, it is said, the animals draw nearer to us at Christmas than at any other time in the year, to hear and understand our speech.
On Christmas Eve, my family and I turn off all of our electric devices. We light a fire in our wood stove and use candles for illumination. We eat a simple meal, and speak in quiet voices, attentive to the blessing spirit of the night.
Late in the evening, some of our dear friends come to our home to be gather around our tree and sing songs. We then take our candles and leave the house. We walk to the farm that is my husband’s creation, directly behind our home. We visit first the cows in the stable and sing to them. Then we trudge across the fields in the darkness to the bees in their hives and the chickens in their coops, the sheep in the stall and the ducks pen. We sing and speak to the animals, and thank them for their gifts.
If time permits, we walk further, down to the river where we may hear the salmon jumping and the beaver slipping into the water.
In the silence of that night, I can feel a wave of world-peace spreading around the world. It has already been midnight in many, many time zones on earth, and people are already sleeping their mid-winter dreams. And as they sleep, they are blest by the spirit of Christmas.
The blessing of Christmas Eve continues for twelve nights, the so-called “Twelve Days of Christmas.” During these twelve nights, the World Creator Spirit draws near to the earth. Even as the earth herself receives life forces for her sustenance and growth in the dark of winter, so too do we receive the deepest blessings of the spiritual world at Christmas. It is possible to become conscious of these deep processes, if we learn to pay attention, especially at night.
My wish and hope for all humanity is that we will be able to open ourselves in this Christmas season to receive the living good-will, love and wisdom of the Creative World as they shine down to the earth, and take root not only all around us but deep within our own hearts.
Sagittarius, the Archer
To watch the video for Sagittarius, go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/eurythmy-online/Sagittarius.mp4 –or— https://youtu.be/E3gEglT0MQY
The sign of Sagittarius represents the Archer, aiming his arrow towards the future. The archer is sometimes shown riding a mighty horse, and sometimes depicted as a Centaur, a mythological creature with the body of a horse and the head and trunk of a human being. Shooting his arrow, Sagittarius rides on the powerful natural wisdom of the Horse. Traveling the night sky to traverse the places of darkness, he aims for the future. He foretells the emergence of the new human being, bearer of a new divine self-awareness.
Chiron, the greatest of the centaurs of the Greek age, presents the archetype of the Archer as Teacher. Chiron was the tutor of the man-hero Hercules, who was assigned twelve challenges to accomplish, a journey which would take him through the twelve signs of the zodiac. Chiron, out of his nature-wisdom, taught Hercules how to successfully complete his twelve tasks, to become the great legendary hero. Drawing upon this image, we can imagine that we are all on our individual Herculean journey, completing our own twelve tasks in our evolving journey of becoming.
The archer who sits upon the horse thus represents the evolving human being. We are on the process of developing a new awareness, evolving beyond the harmonious but incomplete consciousness of the animal kingdom, striving to develop the divine self-awareness of a Human Being.
The Midnight Sun
The sign of Sagittarius rules the winter solstice, the time of the longest night and shortest day of the year. Seen from the northern hemisphere, it sits low upon the horizon. This means that when the sun stands in the sign of Sagittarius, it traces a low arc across the sky, never rising high enough to brighten our days or warm the earth. As the dark time of the year approaches, a mood of mystery pervades all. This is the season when the outer sun of the natural world has faded, and the inner sun can grow strong within us.
Since ancient times, mystery schools have spoken of the “outer sun” and the “inner sun.” The outer sun is at its peak when the sun stands in Gemini at the summer solstice. It teaches us the outer mysteries of creation by filling us with the bounty of sense impressions. The inner sun of the winter speaks to us from depths of our soul, teaching us the inner mystery of creation through the awakening of our inner life. In traversing the cycle of the year again and again, we learn how the inner and the outer are actually two sides of the same, divine mystery.
Summer enlightenment is a gift: winter enlightenment comes to the person who can cultivate the inner spaces of the heart and mind and become aware of the divine that is waiting to be born in us, shining as the sun at the midnight hour.
Many ancient megalithic people positioned standing stones or temples of stone to create sacred places in the landscape. Often, the were positioned them at a precise angle so that the sun would shine upon them at the equinoxes or the solstices. These were considered the sacred times of the year.
We can imagine that the ancient ones feared the dark time of the year. We can imagine that they could not feel the certainty that we have that the sun would re-appear and bring a new summer to earth. In some ancient initiation rites, the priest, or spiritual leader, would withdraw to a temple of darkness at the winter solstice. These temples were constructed to admit the light of the winter sun to shine upon a sacred altar at exactly the winter solstice. It was a test of courage to sit through the dark, and when the priest emerged, he could announce to the peoples that the sun would reappear. This could signify that the dark time had reached its culmination, and that the new cycle would now begin.
The Colors of the Inner Journey
In reading my blogs for the 12 signs of the zodiac, you will have noticed that each sign carries the imprint of a different color. The signs from Aires to Libra correspond to the seven well-known colors of the rainbow, beginning with red and continuing to violent. These seven can be called the “day colors.” Beginning with Scorpio, the next five colors become increasingly delicate, or “spiritual. These “night-colors” are tones of lilac and peach-blossom and magenta that are so delicate and fleeting that we have no distinct names for them. Libra carried the color of violet: Scorpio is a lightened violet and Sagittarius pales to a lavender hue. This is the dark time of the year, and these are the colors of the spiritual world, of mysteries that reveal themselves only to the inner seeker.
As the outer brilliance fades, we have a new opportunity to pay attention to the power of our heart and mind. Especially as we turn away from the pressing demands of the holiday season and create a conscious journey for the inner self, we may choose to spend more time doing inner work. In contemplation and quiet meditation, our dreams may become richer, and our experiences thereby more subtle. We can develop a new sensitivity to the delicate “colors” of our quiet inner life. The inner journey of the soul is cultivated by developing the ability to perceive the subtle dimensions of the non-physical world.
Sagittarius in the Body
In the body, Sagittarius rules the thighs, and, by extension, the corresponding upper arms. Through the arms and legs, we are able to be active in our will, in the sense world.
The next three zodiac signs (Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces) will extend all the way into the knees, shins and feet (and, by association, into the corresponding parts of the arms).
The Sounds of Sagittarius
The sounds associated with Sagittarius are G (as in gate), and its partner sound, the un-voiced K.
Before learning the gesture for these sounds, practice saying them and feeling what part of your mouth you use. You essentially have to create tension in the back of your throat, and inwardly push sideways to open your airway and control the way the air passes out of your lungs. With the voiced sound “G,” you can control the speed of the air enough that you can also make a kind of grunt as you exhale. With the unvoiced “K,” you open your throat quickly enough that the air seems to rush out.
In the physiology of eurythmy, the muscles of the back of the throat correspond to the thighs and upper arms, the realm of Sagittarius. Thus, to create the G in eurythmy, begin by holding your arms in front of your chest, folded at the elbow, with the feeling that your arms are held tight in front of you and you want to push them apart. In preparation, you can imagine that you are in a box, and have to push your way out of it, but you can only use your upper arms, the Sagittarius part of your upper body. Pushing sideways, you create the gesture for G.
You can replace the imagination of being in a box by imagining yourself standing behind a very heavy curtain. This curtain represents everything that keeps you from realizing your full potential. Make a decision to push your obstacles aside, and push the curtains apart. If you pay attention, you can feel that through this movement, your chest is opened wide: you stand in a new world.
It is also possible to make a very delicate “G” gesture. This time, imagine that you are walking through a silvery-gray fog. With your arms, push aside the fog that blinds you, so you can find your way.
As you practice this, imagine yourself working with the archetypal colors of the G. Imagine yourself clothed in sun-yellow. This yellow invokes the radiant light of the I-Am, emerging out of spirit. Feel the silver-gray fog all around you in your etheric body. Push again the fog with a fine blue energy in your arms.
It is also possible, to do G with the muscles of the thighs, corresponding to the deeper forces of Sagittarius.
In a similar way, we can do the sound K with strong movements of the arms or legs. The energy of the K is much more forceful, crisp and hard than the G.
Lift your arms, feeling the power in the upper arms. Thrust downwards with them, vigorously, as if delivering a quick karate chop in the air. You may also thrust them outwards, to the sides. When first learning the K, remember to keep the elbows bent, so that the power is retained in the upper arms and doesn’t extend to the lower arms. Later, of course, you can practice other kinds of K’s.
The colors of the K are different from those of the G. With K, you should imagine yourself clothed in vivid red. Instead of pushing yourself through silver gray, you will burst through a field of bright yellow, with red tension in your arms.
The sound K is the sound that consolidates matter. With the K, the world is suddenly shaped into clear and sharp contours, into crystal clarity.
Now the twilight of the year
Comes, and Christmas draweth near.
See, across the Advent sky
How the clouds move slowly by.
Earth is waiting, wrapped in sleep,
Waiting in a slumber deep.
Waiting for the Christmas birth,
The birth that blesses Heaven and Earth.
As I walked on my favorite river trail this morning, the skies were gray and promising to bring rain soon. The salmon were running in the rivers, their silver tales flashing through the waters. Their spawning would be followed by their natural death, which would in turn bring food to the gulls and the vultures waiting on the shore and in the trees. And in the spring, the salmon eggs will hatch, and the river will be filled with fingerlings.
Now, in the dark and dead part of the year, the seeds of new life are being laid into the earth. All the kingdoms of nature take part in the dying and the birth, as the earth inhales her life forces and wraps herself in blankets of leaves and drifts of snow.
And even as the outer world is getting ready for the madness of pre-holiday shopping and feasting, another sacred festival is being prepared. The mid-winter festival is a festival of communion for the universe and the earth. The sacrament of birth is celebrated every year anew, in the humble place of the manger, in the listening human heart, in the deep center of the earth .
The four weeks preceding Christmas are called Advent, meaning “Coming towards.” The great Sun-Spirit of the Macrocosm “comes towards” the earth every Christmas, to be born in the Microcosm of the earth, in the microcosmic heart of the human being. And just as a mother must wait through a pregnancy until she gives gift to her child, so we must wait through the season of Advent as a kind of world-pregnancy. This is a season of waiting and envisioning, a season to prepare ourselves to connect with the spirit who wills to connect with the earth.
And in the four weeks of Advent, the four kingdoms of Nature are each blessed, one by one, as the earth inhales, the seeds are laid beneath the ground, and the Spirit draws near, approaching from the heights of heaven to the depths of earth.
This, the first week of Advent is sacred to the kingdom of the minerals. These form the foundation of all our life, forming the bedrock of the planet, the scaffolding and skeleton for our existence.
In this first week, as we learn to cultivate our inner quiet, we can take time to give thanks and gratitude to the mineral kingdom. We can honor the selfless strength of the rocks, stones, crystals, bones, seashells and more: to the light and wisdom of their shape and form.
The first light of Advent,
It is the light of stones,
Light that dwells in seashells,
In crystals and in bone.
Many people choose to create a quiet ritual for Advent season, by preparing a table with four candles to notate the four weeks of Advent. In the first week, one single candle is lit daily to signify the mineral kingdom. In the second week, a second candle is also lit, for the plant kingdom; in the third week, a third is lit for the animal kingdom; and in the fourth week, a fourth is lit for the human kingdom.
This simple ritual prepares us then for the darkness of the midnight hour, Christmas Eve, when those who understand the esoteric nature of Christmas listen at the midnight hour for the sacred marriage of heaven and earth. At Christmas, the cosmic spirit of the heights enters into the non-physical space of the human heart.
In the deep darkness of a winter night, in the dark of the cave where the child is born, the mystery of birth will be celebrated. Christmas is the season to celebrate the birth of light in the darkness, the birth of spirit being in the darkness of matter.