December, 2007

 

Mythic Prelude:

The Cloaked Man

The Cloaked Man always makes the night watchman sit up straight and rub his eyes, and not just because he has this disconcerting habit of appearing on the road just before dawn, in the hour when surprise attacks can come. Even before his form starts to emerge from the dawn mist, the air seems to stir with a slate gray, dark blue swirl of purpose, as though some determined being is coming with a challenge that the duke will not be happy to hear. At first the dark-robed figure seems to be slope-shouldered and to have no head at all, until he looks up and we see that he's wearing a broad-brimmed hat that always appears to cover one eye. Who is he? The Palmer from The Faerie Queene? No, he's too tall, and his walk is much too regal. Cyrano de Bergerac about to claim that he's just fallen from the Moon? No, the nose is wrong and the white plume is missing from his hat. Henry V or one of ten thousand other commanders walking through the camp incognito to measure the morale of their men, even give them a little touch of Harry in the night? No, but we're getting warmer.
A gold star in mythology and art history if you recognized Arthur Rackham's image of Wotan, disguising himself as the Wanderer in Wagner's Das Ring des Niebelungen. Also known as Odin, Woden, Grimner (the Masked One) and many other names, this mightiest of all beings in the realm of the gods has hit one of those moments when even the keen-eyed ravens who fly about the world each day and report to him are not bringing all the news he needs. He sags weary on his staff, as though his beard were made of stone, and growing fast. He has never been so deep on brood as he is now, because what's got him in his cloak this time is no mere godsquabble or another dumb, deadly crisis courtesy of Loki the trickster. No, this emergency is as heavy as it gets. The Twilight of the Gods is about to fall. And it's all Wotan's fault.
What a damnable business, and what a rough indicator of how isolated the king can get when the only ones who'll give him the straight story are a couple of crows. At first, the giants Fasolt and Fafner looked like the perfect stonestackers to build Valhalla. And their price for doing it -- Freya, the goddess of love and beauty -- seemed attractive at the time, though Wotan, with that obtuseness that power always seems to bring, somehow forgot to ask Freya herself if the deal worked for her. Nor did he wonder if any other goddesses, especially his wife Fricka, who seems forever on the verge of going postisch about disrespect for family values or some other invisibly fine point of domestic law, are going to pitch some berserker-grade indignation about seeing their sister -- the best-looking one, again -- traded to a couple of prognathous-looking lumpers with horns on their hard hats.
And now it's all going as schrecklich as it can get. The giants have jacked their price to more gold than the Niebelungs can mine. They've spiked the contract by abducting Freya -- so the goddess of youth is locked in a toolshed now, and all the gods are aging so fast that not even enough Botox to fill the Rhine valley is going to be much Hilfe. Loki, always delighted to see divinity in distress, is laughing like a wolf on mushrooms. All the goddesses are incensed, and we're not even close to the climax of the Kali Yuga yet. And what's worse -- Fasolt has killed Fafner, and has turned himself into a dragon sprawling on top of all the gold. And the only hero who can help Wotan get the treasure back into the river, where it belongs, is climbing up a burning mountain peak, about to get smitten with Bruennhilde, Wotan's daughter, whom the god has demoted from a Valkyrie to Birgit Nilsson. Talk about complications. No wonder they call Wagner dunkel und gefaehrlich (dark and dangerous).
So what does all this have to do with our current situation, and what's coming in 2008? Not a thing, of course. Who ever heard of anything so wildly improbable? A no-bid construction project for which the contractors can't be held accountable? A beautiful female used as a bargaining chip without her consent or even her knowledge? Vast sums of money vanishing? Scams and treachery? A monarch so surrounded by yes men and liars that he has to walk around cloaked like Don Juan or the guy on the Sandeman bottle to find out what's going on? Ridiculous, huh? Those Germans! One Phantasie after another. No wonder they go for Till Eulenspiegel, Jaegermesiter and even stranger tastes. Thank Himmel we human beings don't create for ourselves any trouble nearly as bizarre as what the gods cook up.
The rest of what follows here is entertainment, then, as almost everything is now in the holiday season. And something with an Odin motif could be the perfect gift for those hard-to-buy-for special someones because he plays so many roles so well that almost everyone is going to find something to like. He is, not surprisingly in the embattled and aggressive culture that crafted him, a war god whose name means "'Fury', 'Cultic Frenzy', 'Master of Ecstasy'" according to the beautiful and superbly written Woden's Harrow website to which this prelude is much indebted. Thus the German berserker warriors, whom the heat of battle cooked into the divine rage of the furor Teutonicus that the Romans found so terrifying -- and no wonder, as the Teutons' bloody ecstasy was the chaotic opposite of Roman discipline -- were said to be imbued with the frenzy of Odin himself. The bravest of them were the ones most likely to fall gloriously, then get borne on the horses of the Valkyries to Valhalla, where they'll feast on boar and mead and get to fight for hours every day until it's time for the damnedest rumble of them all: Goetterdaemmerung, the fight at the end of the world in which all 432,000 warriors, and all the gods, will perish.
Odin's ecstasy was not all gore and ruin, though. He was also called the Inciter of Inspiration because he was the source of the words and music sung by bards, the most exalted of whom were said to be the clearest cups for pouring Odin's beauty and wisdom into the ears of men. And what makes Odin rare among the Kings of Heaven in the world's pantheon, and perhaps unique among God the Father figures, is that like a mortal hero, he was not all-knowing from the top, but had to grow wise through the shamanic ordeal of hanging from the Weltesche, the World Ash Tree, for the nine days it took to quiet his mind and clear his soul so that he could finally understand the secret of the runes. We see him in the Hanged Man card of the Tarot -- see Aug. 17 -- at the moment just before the flash and blast of illumination comes, and he falls to earth screaming with agony and joy.
What prepared him for this transcendent gift and moment of new knowledge and power? The studies and practices that get overlooked by those who see him only as a god of battles. For one thing, Odin listened readily and respectfully to his daughters, the Valkyries, and to other goddesses, especially his consort Fricka, or Frigg, who was to him the fixed compass point of home and quiet, and the bearer of all Wyrd, or sacred knowledge. He was also a deity of healing, one of whose ways of communicating the runic mysteries, and the wholeness they bring, was through music, and this is why he is also called Galdor, the Lord of Magical Songs. And above all, what made him ready for new learning was his willingness to accept that he did not know all, and would perhaps be the first famous deity to embody what we call today a commitment to lifelong learning. He traveled in several Wanderer disguises: the powerfully built figure of the hidden king in his black and dark blue robe, the beggar in rags, and the Elder God who is tall and slender, white haired and white bearded, walking with a staff carved with symbols of magic and power. In short, he much resembles Saturn as we see him in the Hermit card -- see Dec. 31 -- and this is what makes him a fitting magnet and mirror for this month and next, and the years that will flow from them.
Saturn is the ruler of Capricorn, the sign that is about to get much bigger and more central in our consciousness than it does every December, when the Sun at the winter solstice, and often the planets nearest to him as well, move from Sagittarius into Capricorn. This month and next two major planet ingresses occur as Jupiter enters Capricorn on Dec. 18 for a stay of just over a year, until early January 2009. And two months from now, at the end of January 2008, Pluto enters Capricorn, where he'll stay -- except for a retrograde move into Sagittarius next summer and fall -- until 2023. This winter the mythic center of gravity in the zodiac shifts from the visionary, exuberant, often impulsive energy of the Archer -- the sign that Jupiter rules -- to the colder, more prudent and disciplined methods of Capricorn, who tends to be more interested in getting the job done well than he is in enjoying the ride, and tripping on -- and sometimes over -- his own importance and power.
Power is the operative word. Both Jupiter and Pluto are "power planets": the former relating to establishments of authority -- governments, courts of law, religious institutions and great concerns of public finance such as banks -- and the latter working his covert, passionate will through the broader power of mass movements driven by the subliminal forces of symbolic suggestion and images of propaganda. One way to think of the transition that begins this month is that Bill Clinton exits, taking his dazzlingly presidential image, his media sizzle, expensive friends and apparent warmth and elan with him, and is replaced, depending on how firmly the fix is in, either by the droning, cautious and seemingly dull Al Gore, or by another individual who prefers to be in bed by 9:00, looks upon a glittering state dinner as a painful obligation and behaves in the manner of an unfastened autocrat because, as Reinhold Ebertin observes, one of the classic Pluto-in-Capricorn mythic images is the dictator. Both Stalin and Mao Zedong were Capricorns, after all, and both found it easier to seek and hold dangerous positions because they, and people devoted to them, spent patient years assembling allies who were familiar and comfortable -- even if mediocre -- into reliable structures of loyalty and support that helped them defeat more fiery and imperious types like Trotsky and Chiang Kai Shek.

So the years ahead are likely to present us with both these possibilities, and many more, of Jupiter and Pluto in Capricorn. There is some more basic information about how it may all play out in Astral Notes for Winter, 2007 - 2008. But one way or another, momentous changes are at hand, and even if the time ahead gets very bumpy, the theme of the current is corrective. As Guru Rattana notes, "Sagittarius energy as currently expressed by Pluto and Jupiter is out of whack. Many governments are dangerously plutocratic and theocratic. With a few exceptions big business controls the press and many governments. Head-in-the-sand fundamentalists (many brands) either control some nations or yield undesirable influence. The unenlightened, dogmatic and corrupt expressions of Sagittarius are being exposed."

So what will expedite this exposure, and the cleansing it brings? What, that is, in addition to the high frequencies of mind and heart held by you and other people of good will? One ally is our galaxy herself, as the Sun, Jupiter and other planets all cross the Galactic Center in the weeks to come. Pluto made his third and last transit across the galactic center in October, and now a more rapid and brilliant set of transits unfolds, all of them bringing streams of insight and illumination not just into those who are ready and willing, but into the collective mind of us all, whether we're receptive or not. Those who are aligned with the aim of transcendent, galactic perception will experience what's coming as a heady, unpredictable dance that still pulses with fun surprises, while those who try to hang on to rock and dogma are apt to feel that violent, shaking sensation that comes at the moment the plane crosses the sound barrier. One way or another, it will get intense this winter. The menu of transformative events -- one needs something like a train timetable to keep track of them all -- looks like this:
Dec. 5: Jupiter crosses the Galactic Center, bringing a potential window of enlightenment in individual people and wider structures of power.
Dec. 11: Jupiter overtakes Pluto and conjoins his position at 28° Sagittarius, thereby amping the energies of new beginning that began two days earlier at the Sagittarius New Moon, which the brilliant astrologer Philip Sedgwick sees as "that whopper combo—a celebration and grand finale of Pluto's passage through this sign for the last 12 years. This duo dances in the zodiacal range of the galactic center, the pivotal area around which the Milky Way galaxy rotates. This is Galactic Central, with expanded undercurrents of energy streaming our way." No wonder Philip calls this moment "galactic fireworks and whipped cream."
Dec. 17: the Moon's Nodes shift from the Pisces/Virgo axis to Aquarius/Leo. More on this in a moment.
Dec. 18: Jupiter conjoins the Sun, then enters Capricorn. On the same day Mercury crosses the Galactic Center.

Dec. 19: the Sun crosses the Galactic Center.

Dec. 22: the Sun enters Capricorn, and remains in conjunction with Jupiter through Dec. 27.
Jan. 21: Venus crosses the Galactic Center.
Jan. 26: Pluto enters Capricorn.
Feb. 8: The Chinese lunar calendar begins not just a New Year, but an entire 60-year grand cycle with a Year of the Water Rat.
And amazingly, there's more. Before we get to the most startling new development to arrive in our solar system, it's useful to look for a moment at the shift of the Moon's Nodes on Dec. 17 from the polarity of Pisces and Virgo to Aquarius and Leo. The two Moon's Nodes are not planetary bodies, but opposing points where the Moon crosses the ecliptic, the orbit of the Sun. These North and South Nodes, also called respectively the Dragon's Head and Dragon's Tail, take about 18 1/2 years to make a complete circle of the zodiac, so they stay in each new sign polarity for an average of a little over a year and a half. They've been in Pisces/Virgo since June 2006, and they'll be in Aquarius/Leo a little longer, from this month until August, 2009.
One simple way to look at the meaning of the Nodes is to imagine that the North Node, the Dragon's Head, is the "cohering force" that draws us into relationship, with groups more than with individuals; while the South Node or Dragon's Tail is the "splitting force" that stresses group connections and may tend to break them apart. As Aquarius is the sign of friendship and community, the year and eight months that begin in mid-December 2007 will offer us an excellent opportunity for grass roots activism and community building -- and it gets stronger as it goes along, culminating in late 2008 and 2009 as Neptune and Chiron in Aquarius move into a conjunction that may prove to be the master celestial event, the grand amalgam of healing and spiritual forces that effectively raises the curtain for 2012. Much more information will be available about this, likely more than enough about it, as 2008 moves to crystallization a year from now.
The opposite end of this North Node in Aquarius polarity, the South Node in Leo, is naturally more dramatic, and not only because Leo characters tend to take stage. The separating force of the Dragon's Tail in the sign of kingship -- that is, individual power as distinct from the institutional power of Jupiter and Sagittarius, and the force of mass consciousness in Pluto and Scorpio -- tends to manifest as the end of the line for some people of power, and the often tumultuous birth of new possibilities. The last time the South Node moved through Leo was between mid-May of 1989 and mid-November of 1990, when the Berlin Wall fell, the Showa emperor Hirohito passed away and Mikhail Gorbachev engineered, or survived, or both, the changes that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in December 1991. And the petrolarceny of Kuwaitis in 1990 -- with technical help from Americans who showed them how to sink oblique drilling shafts into Iraq's oil and steal it -- created the intolerable provocation that led to the first Gulf War in the summer of 1991. The fine point of timing here is that the South Node in Leo may not bring and catalyze the main changes. That's what the ensuing polarity of Capricorn/Cancer is for. But when the Dragon's Tail swings through Leo, the scythe of Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, is coming not far behind, from the north.
Another example of this was the South Node's journey through Leo from early December 1914 through May 1916. It began in the first winter of World War I, as all over Europe overcostumed woodenheads (Barbara W. Tuchman's term in The March of Folly) got that sickening feeling that what they'd launched in the manner of a colorful operetta back in August was going to prove a much longer, bitterer and bloodier business than the romantic adventure they'd expected. The Dragon's Tail in Leo does tend to carry more than a mere nuance of karmic payoff for careless people operating far above their level of competence, who get much more than they bargained for, if indeed they are still around in the last scene to see how the play ends.
Perhaps the classic Aquarius/Leo Moon's Node polarity that is still in our living memory was from late June, 1933 through January 1935. On one side of the Atlantic, the North Node in Aquarius was playing out true to form in the populist experiment of the New Deal, led by the Aquarius president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was far more interested in doing something, anything that would work than in respecting and retaining power arrangements that had led in 1929, just as they're leading now, to sweeping and incalculable changes in the world's money system. And on the other side of the ocean, personality cults with South Node in Leo written all over them were flourishing in Germany, where Hitler had just created a one-party state, and Russia, where Stalin was getting ready to rub out the other Old Bolsheviks and prepare the Terror of 1937 to 1939. The term mixed bag hardly begins to describe the extremely volatile range of elements that can come into play when one Moon's Node is in the air sign of the Water Bearer, the other in the fire sign of the Lion.
So what's one quick and easy way to see how the next 5 years are likely to flow? Just track those Moon's Node Positions:
Dec. 2007 - August 2009: North Node (Dragon's Head) in Aquarius and South Node (Dragon's Tail) in Leo: communal activism, sometimes unexpected and even revolutionary in its aims and methods, leading to broader-based social empowerment, often accompanied by the shaking and loosening of powerful people and structures. But before the word revolution triggers any scary alarm bells, please check what A Little Rebellion really means in Aquarian terms.
August 2009 - March 2011: North Node in Capricorn and South Node in Cancer: What was wobbling until now is much likelier to topple and fall, as winter comes for what the Sea Goat wants to sweep away, and it's showdown time in Moon-ruled Cancer for women who now find their empowerment a trickier, more demanding challenge than they'd had in mind.
March 2011 - August 2012: North Node in Sagittarius, South Node in Gemini: New agencies and styles of power evolve -- and new media for delivering them. This is when very big, black birds will come home to roost for media whores and other dishonest communicators -- and some purer souls who learn to speak their truth now emerge as butterflies.
August 2012 - February 2014: North Node in Scorpio, South Node in Taurus: All bets are off, as you know, until we see how the end of 2012 will play out. But speaking only in astrological terms, one factor that makes December 2012 more plausible than October 2011 as the moment the Maya call the End of Time is that from the summer of 2012, the axis of the Moon's Nodes enters the polarity of Scorpio, the sign of death and regeneration.
What more is needed to indicate to us that some extraordinary events are about to unfold in the years just ahead of us? Not much, really, but something extremely entertaining has just arrived anyway. As you probably know, the web has been abuzz since last month with theories and claims about Comet 17P/Holmes, which exploded on Oct. 24 and has been expanding since, so it now looks, as we see in this picture, as big as the Sun.
It's not really a solid body that immense, of course. It just has a very big aura. So there are few swaggering opinions about the comet, even on the intenet And those who are asking if 17P/Holmes is the Blue Kachina Star Frank Waters wrote about in The Book of the Hopi -- said to portend a moment of choice when more awakened human beings will opt to create a more love-based Earth together -- are being, perhaps, wisely cautious.
Photo courtesy Red Ice Creations
Yet whatever this thing heralds or means, it is obviously there, and it is exceedingly anomalous. Comets do not normally get nearly this big. And they tend to be gray-white slush balls of rock and ice, not robin's eggs the size of a star. There are times when it appears that some "hidden intelligence," as Rumi put it, is working so hard to get some of us to notice the elephant in the room that he or she has made the beast not only more enormous than it's ever been before, but it enters and trumpets dressed in bright blue. The symbolism would be almost deafening if the color weren't so ineffably serene.
We are in the presence of the unknown here, and it joins a whole queue of financial, political, social, environmental and cultural unknowns as we get ready to enter a new year that tests our ability to move gracefully through unfamiliar territory, and also to see that this strange terrain is a mirror of unknown energies and capacities that it is time to face and handle in ourselves. M. Kelley Hunter contributes this tremendous passage from Joseph Needleman about being "suspended between dreams" at a moment of new awakening: "There is nothing to guarantee that we will be able to remain long enough or deeply enough in front of the unknown, a psychological state which the great traditional paths have always recognized as sacred . . . The real question of the moment between dreams is whether we can bear the vibration of this new feeling of the unknown which carries with it the taste of a different quality of intelligence, but which at the same time utterly exposes all our illusions about ourselves. We awaken to darkness. . . . Do I fear the darkness more than I love the awakening?"
It may help to talk a bit to that Wanderer when we meet him on the road. As Woden's Harrow reminds us, Odin -- and Saturn, Hermes, Thoth and others like them -- have long been known to appear to us in guises that reflect our perception of the god himself, and of everything else. If we expect the worst from the Wanderer, and the cosmos, we will get it. If we expect the best, and are even brave enough to help sing it into being, then as Galdor, the Wanderer may have a magical song to teach us. Keep Holding That Frequency.

Please help support the Universal Festival Calendar and Hermes 3. If you like this site, you can help the author finish his book, 2012 and the Coming of Aquarius. To make a sponsor donation, or to order or renew your subscription or gift subscriptions to the UFC -- $25 a year, $50 for three years, $100 for a lifetime subscription -- click here.

Copyright 2007 Dan Furst. All Rights Reserved.