Of Solstices and Symbols.

December 21 is the Winter Solstice — the shortest day and the longest night of the year. According to this resource, the Gammadion, composed of four Greek “gammas” — probably represented the solstices and equinoxes, or the four directions, four elements, and four divine guardians of the world.
gamma.jpg
You might notice that this symbol looks like a swastika. Actually, there are dozens of kinds of swastikas because the form of the symbol is an ancient symbol that has been used for over 3,000 years. (That even predates the ancient Egyptian symbol, the Ankh!) Artifacts such as pottery and coins from ancient Troy show that the swastika was a commonly used symbol as far back as 1000 BCE. (from here)
Some swastikas face clockwise and some counterclockwise.
A swastika with arms pointing clockwise was generally regarded as a solar emblem. A counterclockwise one represented the moon, night, and the feminine principle. (from Barbara Walker’s book
Here, for example, is a Native American Sunbird Swastika.
sunbird.jpg
Also, from Barbara Walker’s book,
Named from the Sanskrit “so be it,” or “amen,” the swastika has been a reigious emblem of worldwie occurrence since at least 10,000 B.C. It appeared on the oldest coinage in India, on images of Buddha in Japan, and on Greek and Roman figures of the Great Goddess. On artifacts dating from the thirteenth century B.C. onward, the swastika has been found in Asia Minor, Greece, China, Persia, Libya, Scandinavia, Britain, and Iceland. It was still used as a magic sign in Europe up to the beginning of the twentieth century.
And then what happened to the swastika became part of the worst of human history.
The pentagram/pentacle has also been maligned by history.
The word pentagram comes from the Greek: “Pente means 5 (as in Pentagon). Gamma means a letter. Thus, pentagram refers to a five pointed star, or “any figure of five lines.” It is most often used to refer to a symmetrical, five pointed star, with equal sides, drawn either with a single line or with two closely spaced parallel lines. Their overall shape is like the decoration on the top of many Christmas trees, and the stars on the American flag.
– An upright pentagram is a 5 pointed star with one point aligned upwards.
– An inverted pentagram is a 5 pointed star with one point aligned downwards.
– An upright pentacle is generally defined as an upright pentagram surrounded by a circle, as is shown in the following icon. It often takes the form of a pentagram printed on (or cut into) a flat disk.

pentagram.jpg
— The five points of the pentagram have been interpreted as representing the five wounds of Christ (2 wrist, 2 ankle and 1 side).
– The Roman Emperor Constantine used the pentagram in his seal and amulet.
– It has been referred to as the Star of Bethlehem
– It was used to symbolize the star which allegedly led three Zoroastrian astrologers to the baby Jesus; it was called the Three Kings’ star.
– The English warrior Sir Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur, adopted the pentagram as his personal symbol and placed it on his shield. It appeared in gold on a red background. The five points symbolized “the five knightly virtues – generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety.”
– Tarot cards originally had a suit of coins or discs. These were changed in the 19th century to pentacles when the Tarot became associated with the Kabbalah. They eventually became the suit of diamonds in modern playing cards.
– It has been widely used by past Christians as a protective amulet.
– During the burning times when the Christian church burned alive hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the meaning of the pentagram changed. It began to symbolize a goat’s head or the devil in the form of Baphomet. “The folk-symbol of security – for the first time in history – was equated with evil and was called the Witch’s Foot.

It’s interesting how, over time, people forget the origins of various symbols and celebrations. Different peoples and cultures and groups often reconstruct these things to suit their own purposes.
Which brings me back to the Winter Solstice.
In pre-historic times, winter was a very difficult time for Aboriginal people in the northern latitudes. The growing season had ended and the tribe had to live off of stored food and whatever animals they could catch. The people would be troubled as the life-giving sun sank lower in the sky each noon. They feared that it would eventually disappear and leave them in permanent darkness and extreme cold. After the winter solstice, they would have reason to celebrate as they saw the sun rising and strengthening once more. Although many months of cold weather remained before spring, they took heart that the return of the warm season was inevitable. The concept of birth and or death/rebirth became associated with the winter solstice. The Aboriginal people had no elaborate instruments to detect the solstice. But they were able to notice a slight elevation of the sun’s path within a few days after the solstice — perhaps by DEC-25. Celebrations were often timed for about the 25th.
And so we have the celebration of Christmas on that date, even though that’s not the actual date of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
I can’t help wondering if today’s intolerances among peoples would be lessened if, in school, kids were made aware of the common origins of so many of our symbols and celebrations that now divide us.

Please, George, don’t beat us any more!

The following is an essay written by someone who works with victims of domestic abuse. The parallels to our national situation are really scary.
Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the ‘new’ language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, “Why did they beat me?”
And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.
They will tell you: Every single day.
The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.
As victims we can’t stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can’t seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.
Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won’t; we will never be worthy).
And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.
How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.
First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don’t do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don’t do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don’t resist and fight back.
Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you’ve learned, and that you aren’t going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it’s better than the abuse.
We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 57 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don’t know how.
Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: Stop responding to the abuser.
Don’t let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he’ll win, not because he’s right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it fail-proof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, “loose,” irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.
Even if you do everything right, they’ll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education.
And they don’t even know they are being hit.

The above taken from here.
Funny that I should be made aware of this essay just after writing the previous post.