[The first section is mostly me reflecting upon my life so far. Feel free to skip ahead if you wish.]
Perhaps it is the seasonal depression which I occasionally suffer, or perhaps it is the stress of coming home and facing a hectic holiday season. For whatever reason, I’ve always dreaded the coming of December. When I lived in the UK, winter meant darkness— literally. The sun would set at 4pm and it would be pitch black until the next dawn.
And in the cold and the dark, heavy thoughts would take root.
Despair about an unjust past. Regrets about a less-than-perfect childhood. Anxiety about the ever-changing present. Fear about the uncertain future. Whatever may be the cause, December often marked a dark time in my life.
Things would change, however, come December 2021. I am able to say that December of last year was the happiest winter I have ever had. It was my first time spending the holidays abroad, but I was far from alone. I had made new friends from my postgrad studies (friends who surprised me with an invitation to lunch to celebrate my birthday, a gesture that touched me to this day) and reconnected with old friends from my undergrad years. Likewise, the December of last year was also the time when I first hung out with Katarina (AKA Sfinga) in-person, resulting in an unexpected run-in with Erzebet Barthold (managing director of Hadean Press) and José Leitão (author of The Book of St. Cyprian) at Watkin’s Books. That brief meeting with Erzebet was one of the factors that motivated me to reach out to Hadean Press, later publishing the pamphlet I had been working on.
It was around that time as well that my relationship with the planets and stars inspired me to “better” myself. Hence, I reached out to a private therapist and attended proper therapy for the first time in my life, a decision that I would come to be proud of now that I’m looking back at it. Although I still suffer from occasional bouts of anxiety and suicidal ideation, I have developed healthy coping methods to push me through the moments of disheartenment. Most importantly though, I realized that I do in fact have a network of friends and people — childhood friends, friends from university, online friends from the occult world etc — who care about me and have proven time and time again that they will be there for me if I need them, and so will I if they ever need me.
On the day before this year’s winter solstice, I had dinner with my childhood friends. At that dinner, one of my friends decided to ask a “fun” question: what is the meaning of life? Naturally, one of my other friends remarked that we are too sober to answer that question as of the current. Nevertheless, it is a question that stuck with me because in my mind, life is suffering. Let me make it clear though, I do not believe that the world is inherently cruel. Rather, I believe that the universe is inherently uncaring and indifferent. Nothing is out to “get” you, but rarely do people have your best interests at heart either. Sometimes tragedies happen due to situations out of your control. Sometimes you may do everything right but still be faced with pain and disappointment.
To live is to suffer, for suffering is unavoidable— such is the teaching of Saturn.
To live, however, is also to hope. For without hope, it is impossible to endure.
Hope will be the key theme of today’s discussion.
Castor: Firebringer and Lightbearer
I have spoken of Castor previously twice. Now, I return to the star once more with a newfound understanding that Castor is hope embodied. Castor — the twin who died — is no stranger to tragedy and death. It thereby makes perfect sense when I later discovered that the constellation of Gemini in Thai stellar mythology is represented by the “crow perched upon the coffin” (กาเกาะปากโลง), with Castor and Pollux forming a part of the coffin. The crow and the coffin is also said to have been used as a significator for good and ill omens by the villagers of Phatthalung, a southern province in Thailand. This concept of the stars of Gemini being associated with a coffin is also present in Germanic folklore. In the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the seven dwarfs are interpreted to be the seven stars of the Pleiades whilst Snow White’s coffin is said to be represented by the stars within the constellation Gemini, consisting of α (Castor), β (Pollux), γ and μ Geminorum.
[Thank you to Silverius from Sasha’s Discord server for this information on the Snow White stellar lore!]
Thus, Castor and Pollux are once again two stars which are inseparable from the concept of death and the inescapable ache that comes with loss. Yet, amid the pain and the longing, Castor is a star that has come to represent hope.
A phenomena associated with Castor and Pollux is that of St. Elmo’s fire, also ominously called the Witch’s fire. St. Elmo’s fire is named after St. Erasmus of Formia, the patron saint of sailors. Those who sail among stormy seas often view the phenomenon to be a good omen as it often warns of an imminent lightning strike, promising the sailors that they will escape unharmed despite the dangers. In the 15th century, Admiral Zheng He had inscribed a reference to the phenomenon, claiming that “in the midst of the rushing waters it happened that, when there was a hurricane, suddenly a divine lantern was seen shining at the masthead, and as soon as that miraculous light appeared the danger was appeased, so that even in the peril of capsizing one felt reassured and that there was no cause for fear”.
Just as St. Elmo’s is described to be akin to a “divine lantern” as aforementioned, the Greeks of ancient times also refer to a single instance of St. Elmo’s fire by the name of Helene which literally means “torch”. Hence, it could be noted that there is a recurring theme that associates Castor and Pollux with fire and light, especially one that has come to represent hope, something to shine a path through perilous waters. The association with Castor and Pollux and fire does not end here either. In Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, it is stated that the Aztecs took Castor and Pollux to be “the first fire sticks, from which mankind learned how to drill fire”. Similarly, in Myths of the Origin of Fire by James George Frazer, it is said that the Tasmanians also “felt indebted to Castor and Pollux for the first fire”.
Castor, therefore, represents this so-called “first fire”. It is a star of deliverance and hope. It is the light in the darkness, the warmth in winter. When the world seems dark and cold, Castor is the torch and the fire. It is a star of hope in the face of despair, hope in the face of utter annihilation. It is the Star shining above the Lightning-Struck Tower. Bernadette Brady similarly draws a parallel between Castor and Lucifer, the light-bearer. In her words: “the morning star was also known as Lucifer (light-bearer) and the evening star, Vespers (evening). Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven and into the whirlpool is possibly the mythological retelling of the slipping of Castor into southern declinations.” Hence, there is a sense of salvation and an image of (fallen) light, associated with Castor.
With light, comes the thought of the Sun.
It is perhaps unsurprising then to know that Castor is associated very closely with the deity Apollo. Not only was Castor called “Apellon” in the Doric (Greek) dialect — a name that can be assumed to have stemmed from Apollo — the figure itself has also been depicted in a way in that it is Apollo, in the past. More details can be found in my older post, wherein I discussed Castor’s connection to Apollo and Pollux’s connection to Hercules.
Night Sun: A Light in the Dark
It is at this mention of the Sun that I began to wonder: where does the Sun go when it sets? How does the fire of the Sun endure when it is winter, when the nights are long and the days are short?
In Vedic mythology, both the setting sun and the night sky are said to be ruled by Varuna. To quote an older post which I wrote a while back: “as the god of the night and the moon, day and night are the white and black garments that he wears. Golden-horned Varuna’s eye is also that of the sun, the golden all-seeing sun that observes all which occurs upon the earth. As the Lord of the West, the direction at which the sun sets, Varuna too rules over the sun that sits at the root of the world’s tree. With the setting sun comes the realm of the dead: it is said that upon passing, the souls shall see two kings, Yama and the deva Varuna.” Here, it could be seen that when the sun sets, it sits at the root of the world’s tree, in the netherworld where dead souls roam.
[Perhaps, this could even be a parallel to Castor — a star representing Apollo, a deity of the Sun — who dies and whose soul is sent to Hades, only for him to be placed in the heavens after the sacrifice of his brother Pollux.]
Additionally, an Egyptian myth as written in the Amduat tells the story of Ra, the Egyptian sun god who travels through the underworld, from the time when the sun sets in the west and rises again in the east. The sun undergoes a form of katabasis, venturing to the realm of the dead only to return to the upper realms once more. Aside from Ra being the god of the sun, another deity in the same pantheon who is sometimes associated with the sun is Osiris— the god of death and resurrection, the sun died and reborn again. According to Frazer in The Golden Bough, “the ground upon which some modern writers seem chiefly to rely for the identification of Osiris with the sun is that the story of his death fits better with the solar phenomena than with any other in nature. It may readily be admitted that the daily appearance and disappearance of the sun might very naturally be expressed by a myth of his death and resurrection; and writers who regard Osiris as the sun are careful to indicate that it is the diurnal, and not the annual, course of the sun to which they understand the myth to apply.”
In other words, the sun’s daily death and resurrection forms a parallel with the myth of Osiris and, as many including Frazed would argue, the stories of Dionysus (who has been known to have been syncretized with Osiris in the form of Dionysus-Osiris). Much like Osiris, Dionysus is called by the epithet of “twice-born” or “thrice-born”, in accordance with his (or sometimes Zagreus’) death at the hands of the Titans — wherein he was torn apart, cooked and consumed — and his subsequent resurrections. Dionysus too has been associated with the sun, both in a symbolic and a mythopoetic sense. In Introduction to Studies in Orphism by Martin Euser, it is stated that whereas Apollo represents the “occult potency of the spiritual Day-Sun”, Dionysus represents the “spiritual Night-Sun”.
Many epithets of Dionysus are similarly of a solar significance. Dionysus is known as Antauges, the Sparkler; Aithiopais, the child of the Sun-Burnt-Land; Chrysopes, the Golden-faced; Chrysokomes, the Golden-haired; Chrysomitres or Gold-mitred; Pyropos or Fiery-faced; Pyrisporos or Fire-engendered; and Pyrigenes or Fire-born. To quote Euser: “Thus, Dionysos is Nyktelios, Lord of the Night, and Nyktipolos or Night-wandering, and Aristophanes represents the Mystics calling upon Iakchos, the Eleusinian Mystery-name of Zagreus-Dionysos as ‘the Morning Star that shinest nightly’. Macrobius quotes an Orphic verse which speaks of ‘The Sun whom men call Dionysos,’ while another Orphic fragment says: ‘He is called Dionysos because he whirls in circular motion through the immeasurably extended heavens.’ And the Eumolpic verses state that ‘Dionysos with face of flame glistens like a Star with his rays.’”
This post on the Bakcheion also goes into a greater depth on the portrayal of Dionysus as the Night Sun and his subsequent connection to Apollo. I personally do not support the author’s political views, but nevertheless his article has been incredibly helpful in expanding upon my own understanding of Dionysus and Apollo.
All of this begs the question: so, what is the Night Sun?
The question is one which I do not yet have a complete answer to, but one feeling that speaks to me clearly of the Night Sun is that of hope— the very reason that I chose to write this essay. The Night Sun typifies a torch-light procession through a city at night, bringing into the city the sounds of cries and the resurrection of a bull-faced god. The Night Sun represents a god reborn, a life renewed, surviving in spite of the brutality of a cruel death. In many ways, I associate this Night Sun with the Sun in the 2H, 6H, 8H and 12H. It is a fiery light that endures even when plunged into the depths of the Underworld. It is the defiant strength of the soul, a fire of the spirit that refuses to be snuffed out.
The Sun Reborn: A Devotional Rite
Thus, I was inspired to perform a ritual during the winter’s solstice, a time in the Northern hemisphere when the day is shortest, the night longest and every bit of sunlight rare and precious. Below is a ritual I have devised whose words are taken from The Azoetia: A Grimoire of the Sabbatic Craft. Although the rite is intended to be performed during the winter’s solstice, it could also be adapted to be used whenever one feels like the fire of their spirit needs a rekindling.
- The Winter’s Eve
During the sunset of the eve of the winter’s solstice, recite the Proclamation of the Living Temple whilst facing west. Then, whilst bathing yourself in the light of the setting sun, recite the Adoration of the Setting Sun. Imagine the light of the setting sun becoming one with the light of your soul.
PROCLAMATION OF THE LIVING TEMPLE
I go forth in mine own Chosen Body, the Temple of all Gods. Crown’d am I with the Stellar Fire entwined about the Horns of the Ancient One. There is no part of me that is not I. My Hair is of the Cords that bind, scourge and bless: the Sheaves of the Harvest and the Serpents of Fear; the Crown of the Fields, of Flower and Leaf; the Crown of the Sky, the Threads that join the Stars, fair as the silk of the Moth and fine as the Spider’s strand. My Face is the Sun and the Fullness of the Moon, the Circle of the Horizons and the Black Mirror of the Depths: Masks beyond Number concealing the Face of I. My Skull is the Conclave of the One Spirit; mine is the Blessing, mine is the Curse. For I am the Voice of the Oracle. My Eyes are the Twin Shewstones of Twilight, the Dawn and the Dusk. Bright as the Star of Morning, bright as the Star of Evening. Their Gaze, sharp as that of any Bird, pierceth all things. Unto I is the Offering: the Sight of Virgin Beauty never-fading. My Ears are Witness to Truth, attentive to them that speak it. Unto I is the Offering: the Rhythms of Power and the Words of Calling, the Voice of the Ancestors, the Oracle of the Mighty Ones. May the Musick Celestial be heard and Inspiration given. My Nose is the Guide of the Great Hunt, Keen as that of the Stag and the Dog. Unto I is the Offering: all Scents that please and rouse the Heart. My Mouth is the Temple of the Serpent’s Tongue, a Devourer of Souls and a Receiving Chalice. May I drink of the Muses’ Fount and taste of the Feast Divine; may I partake of the first-fruits sacrificed unto the Gods. My Hands are the Shrines of Creation and Destruction. My Skin is the Vestment of Priest and Priestess. My Blood is the Ink of the Book. My Shadow is the Twin. Goddess and God am I, conjoined in their Shadows: the Double Twin Image of the Quintessential and Primeval I.
ADORATION OF THE SETTING SUN
Hail to Thee, O’ Mighty Sun at Thy Setting! Aged art Thou and grown in wisdom. Joyous is Thy twilight hour in the Palace of the Day. Joyous is Thy Heart at the Gates of Death and Sleep. stick, Joyous is Thy descent into the Palace of the Night. Thus am I grown in age and in wisdom. Joyous is this twilight hour in the Palace of the Day. Joyous is my heart at the Gates of Death and Sleep. Enduring is my strength, Joyous is my descent into the Palace of the Night. Hail to Thee! Ancient Father and Ancient King.Crowned art Thou with the Splendour of the Dusk. Adorned art Thou with the bountiful riches of Autumn. Guardian art Thou to the Gate of the Oracle. Blessed art Thou that Thy Light sustaineth the Life of the Earth. Hail to Thee, O’ Mighty Sun at Thy Setting! By the Power of all Thine Ancient Names.
- The Winter’s Solstice
On the night of the winter’s solstice (ideally at midnight), recite the Proclamation of the Living Temple whilst facing north. Then, under the shadows of the night sky, light a candle and recite the Adoration of the Sun of the Deep. Imagine the light of the candle being akin to the light of your soul, enduring and bright in spite of the darkness around you.
ADORATION OF THE SUN OF THE DEEP
Hail to Thee, O’ Mighty Sun of the Deep! Most Holy art Thou in Death: A Mighty God in the Company of the Ancestors; A Concealed God in the Palace of the Night. Enduring is the Light of Thy Spirit. Thus I am strong in Death. Mighty am I in the Company of the Ancestors. Concealed is my Spirit in the Palace of the Night. Enduring is the Light of my Soul. Hail to Thee, Heart of the Earth, Kindred of the Imperishable Stars! Crowned art Thou with the Splendour of the Midnight Hour. Adorned art Thou with the nakedness of Winter. Robed art Thou with the mantle of the Night-sky, Blessed art Thou, that Thy Light hath strength in the midst of Darkness. Hail to Thee in the Congregation of the Holy Stars! By the Power of all Thy Secret and Unknown Names.
- The Dawn After
At the first light of dawn — the first break of daylight after the winter’s solstice — stand outside and face east. Recite the Proclamation of the Living Temple whilst greeting the rising sun. Take a jar of honey with you and catch the sunlight in the jar of honey. Recite the Adoration of the Rising Sun and then swallow the honey, imbued with the properties of the sun reborn.
ADORATION OF THE RISING SUN
Hail to Thee, O’ Mighty Sun at Thy rising! Newborn art Thou into the Palace of the Day. Replenished is Thy Strength as Thou risest from Death and the Palace of the Night. Thus newborn am I into the Palace of the Day. Replenished is my Strength as I arise from sleep and the Palace of the Night. Hail to Thee! Child Eternal in Thy Beauty! Crowned art Thou with the Splendour of Dawn, Adorned art Thou with the Blossoms of Spring, Holy art Thou in Divine Innocence. Blessed art Thou that Thy Light sustaineth the Life of Earth. Hail to Thee, O’ Mighty Sun at Thy rising! By the Power of all Thine Ancient Names.
This ritual is inspired by PGM I. 1-42 which tells the practitioner to “take the milk with the honey and drink it before the rising of the sun, and there will be something divine in your heart.” The purpose of the Proclamation of the Living Temple is to remind the body that it comes from the same dust as the stars, that everything from its hair to its skin to even its shadow is sacred. In essence, the Proclamation of the Living Temple serves as a way to sanctify the body. The Adorations of the Sun, consequently, act as a way to sanctify the soul by drawing parallels between the sun and our very soul.
“Enduring is Thy Strength […] Enduring is my strength.”
“Enduring is the Light of Thy Spirit […] Enduring is the Light of my Soul.”
“Replenished is Thy Strength as Thou risest from Death and the Palace of the Night […] Replenished is my Strength as I arise from sleep and the Palace of the Night.”
[Is the Sun not Sol, the fire that ignites our Soul?]
This ritual is quite experimental and I confess that I was unable to perform the ritual in full during this year’s winter solstice due to physical exhaustion and work obligations. Nevertheless, I am confident that the ritual will bring rejuvenation to all who perform it. Regardless, please do perform some divination on whether you should perform the ritual or not, just in case there may be some unforeseen side effects.
This year has been a year of bliss and despair for me. Friends of mine may recall a brief time last spring when the fantasy of ending it all crept its way into my heart, only to be banished by the light of friendship and the hope that I have for all that is yet to come. Now, I find myself literally living in the same place where I — several years ago — made plans and some attempts to end my life. Only, this time around, things are different. It was despair that pushed me onto the path of the occult. It is instead hope that motivates me to continue down this path, guided by gods and spirits and ancestors. Although I am aware that hope itself can be a demon and a lure in its own way, hope is something that I have come to realize is necessary to life. Without hope, life has no meaning.
Thus, I wish to say thank you to any of my friends who may be reading this. To those of you who have reached out to me, knowing or not knowing how desperately I needed that ray of light, I thank you with all my heart.
I love you all, and wish you all an early happy 2023.