Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wheel of the Year: Neopagan invention or basic observation?

Wheel of the Year: Neopagan invention or basic observation?

The Wheel of the Year is a well known neopagan concept that spans several types of modern pagan traditions (Wicca, branches of Druidry, Atheopaganism, Sacred Feminine, etc.). Beginning on "the Witches New Year", Halloween, the Wheel of the Year goes like this:
Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon... or something like that. That is how I recall them. You could also call them Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, May Day, Fourth of July, Last Days of Summer, and Back to School if you instead follow the Walmart of the Year. And you can find plenty of online or book resources for this concept. I'm leaving it loose, because the point of this post is to span beyond this "Wheel of the Year" as eight specific celebration Sabbaths to be celebrated at all costs by all pagans. The Wheel of the Year was invented in fairly recent times during the pagan-religious revival times of the mid-1900s. Though the names were taken from several traditions and slapped together, it is undeniable that these eight specific times coincide with correlations between the three important and obvious celestial cycles.
  • 1. The Sun and Constellations on the Ecliptic (Year)
  • 2. The Growing Cycle (Season)
  • 3. The Lunar Cycle (Month)
Any child can identify these unique cycles. We learn very quickly, by living with them, how the environmental conditions of each impact us. For instance, when I say "Yule" or "Christmas" or "Winter Solstice" or "Hanukkah" you know I am referring to that specific set of holidays that take place in the winter, when the days are darker and colder. If I say "Easter" or "Ostara", any child in the culture will identify this with church or a bunny, but any child in the northern hemisphere will associate this celebration with "spring time".

The Wheel of the Year was not invented, it is plainly visible for all to recognize as it is written in the patterns of nature!* I think there is no reason to believe people have freely observed these cycles, throughout all cultures and geographies throughout time.

*I write from a northern hemisphere perspective and at a latitude that does not get complete darkness during winter. A fairly wide band. 
**The degree is 23.5 now, but the degree slightly varies every 24,000 years from 24.5 to 22 degrees. This is one of the Milankovitch Cycles, I could write about this another time but has plenty of reference out there, or see my Violent Earth Lecture 4 on the subject. 

The Year
The Sun and Constellations on the Ecliptic

Ill start with this one, because it is both the most well known (sun) and poorly known (stars) and happens to be my favorite! 

So, you will recall from your Geography 101 that the earth is tilted on her axis (23.5 degrees)**. As she revolves around the sun but the angle stays the same, this naturally sets up a variation in the amount of solar radiation each part of the globe receives: a minimum, a maximum, and a point between each. The Winter Solstice is defined by the suns lowest point in the sky or the furthest south it rises or sets, so coincides with the shortest day of the year (or most darkness). The Summer Solstice the sun is very high in the sky, but easier to measure by looking at the furthest north sunrise. 
Image result for tilt of the earth diagramThe Equinox days are pretty simple, as the sun rises directly on east on both days.This is pretty easy to measure if you have access to a high point to clearly see the western, southern, and eastern horizons that you can return to weekly in the morning, noon, and night. I say its easy, but time consuming! I did this from my east facing window for sunrise for a year. Anyway, they patter of the moving sun is pretty clear. 

Okay, not the poorly known part: the Stars! The thirteen constellations on the ecliptic (suns path through the sky if plotted during the year) are known as the Zodiac. Zo- for animals, dia- for days. The annual path of the sun is divided into the animal shapes the stars are in. Doesn't matter what they are, you can make up your own shapes and animals if you like. Or just take the star names. Anyway, there are certain stars and constellations that also mark these. Not quite as precise, but mark the time. I will use the astronomical constellations, since they are the most well known (and only ones I know, hehe). These can also be easily observed if you stand on that same hill requested above. Though, some of these alignments along the horizons and at sunrise/sunset will not be accurate for higher or lower attitudes. 
1. Samhain - 

2. Winter Solstice - Virgo constellation is rising before the sun. If you wake up while it is still dark, which is common for most of us at that time in the winter, and you look to the south eastern sky, the brightest star is Spica of Virgo (note the moos is also full in my stellarium picture). As a side note, isnt it interesting that the Sun (son) rises (births) under the Virgo (virgin) on the Solstice (Christmas)? Literally written in the stars.

3. Imbolc - Sirius is visible on the eastern horizon right at sunset.
Few days earlier, sun rise is too early and Sirius is too low. Few days later, and Sirius is high in the sky by the time the sun goes down. This is approximate. Not precise, but more a 'season' feeling.

4. Spring Equinox - The position of Sirius, once again, helps to determine the days around the Equinox (aside from the Sun rising/setting E/W and the length of day/nigh the same...). Sirius, the brightest star besides the sun, crosses directly south at sunset on the days surrounding the Equinox. Couple days before, it is far to the east at sunset. And a few days after, it is in the west of south during sunset. 

5. Beltane - Just as Imbolc marked the rise of Sirius and Orion, Beltane is marked as the last days of those stars. The last days of April, Sirius can be seem skimming the horizon. Then all of the sudden, the belt and Sirius not out after sunset. Gone. Beltane. 

6. Litha - During sunset of midsummer, if you look near the spot where the sun had stood at
solar noon, you will see the Virgin. Almost right on south. Actually, where the sun was is between her legs now.

7. Lammas - At this special time, when the days are still warm and long and you can get plenty of stargazing while camping, there a couple of cool ways you can tell August is coming: The obscure way is to use the north star (Polaris). If you already know how to find Polaris, you are familiar with the pointer stars of the Big Dipper. At the onset of August, peculiarly the pointer stars and Polaris line up with the western azimuth (intersect the horizon right at west). 
On the eastern horizon, our good friend Orion begins to be visible in the morning just before sun rise. 

8. Mabon/Autumnal Equinox - one of my personal favorites, can be detected as the last days of the constellation Scorpius. All summer, the Scorpius and its heart star Antares provides a great summer spectacle. But at the same time the nights are becoming cool, crisp, and dew in the morning the Scorpius constellation is lower and lower on the southwestern horizon until, on the days surrounding the Equinox, the Scorpius cannot be seen on the horizon after sunset.

The Seasons
The Growing Cycle
Many pagans are gardeners, but far from all. The cycle of agriculture is a popular cycle in all of the mythology of ancient polytheistic religions and modern neopagan ones, so it is surprising to me that not all pagans make a point to be involved in agriculture (or at permaculture) in some way. 

The traditional Wheel of the Year is heavily influenced by Celtic reconstruction of the 1970s, which was from most of what we can tell was heavily agriculture based. Even if you are not a gardener, there are signs all around in northern hemisphere culture that these celestial dates are upon us. 

The Months
The Lunar Cycle
Most pagan folk are familiar with Lunar Cycles as well, so not much I need to say here. The dates of several of the full-moons fall really, really closely to the days of the Wheel of the Year. 

Pretty Close to Feb. 1st (Imbolc), could just celebrate on the "second full moon" after the Winter Solstice".

Similarly, pretty close to May 1st. Call is the "5th full moon after Winter Solstice".

"8th full moon" equivalent to Lammas.

"11th full moon" During Samhain

Though the Wheel of the Year is a modern construct as we know it, I think there is much reason to believe that people just observing their natural surroundings, the rhythms of the natural cycles, would be capable of celebrating such markings. I'm not saying anybody was, as there is not historical evidence.

I am saying these cycles are obvious. Any animal institutionally has them encoded in their action of life. For how long have humans gone a step further to use these celestial cycles as markers. Markers for celebration, essential agricultural duties, a celestial lesson written by the intelligence of the cosmos, or just signs of hope.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Owyhee Canyon Dragon: myth, history, or stalker?

Owyhee Canyon Dragon:
A myth, just history, or out there stalking?

by Sammy Castonguay, Friend of the Owyhee (Canyon Dragon)
Acknowledging Tim Davis, Friends of the Owyhee Director

Smaug | Dragons | FANDOM powered by WikiaTattoo | Tattoos | Pinterest | Tattoos, Tattoo designs and ...4ft Long Falcor Replica Selling On Etsy

Mythical Creatures pervade human oral tradition from legend and folklore to fantasy and religion. Often times the tales of these mythical beasts derive from the mystery of the land, sea, or sky. Sometimes they are mischievous, sometimes jolly, but all-the-time leery of the human race. 

Think Bigfoot. The Minotaur. Mermaids. The Jack-a-lope. Lockness Monster. The Thunderbird. Chupacabre. The Lorax. Leprechauns. Etcetera. Mythical creatures, on one hand, seem like a relic of the past (like from Greek Mythology, or old Grimes Tales) but several of the above mentioned are a purely modern phenomenon. Be they a joke, long oral traditions, supernatural beings, or a modern naturalists-animists anthropomorphic connection to the land, they are among us. 

Ill give my report of the Owyhee Canyon Dragon. 

Its big, real big, most of the time. Its magick allows it to shrink to the size of a house-fly, but rarely will. Why would it? It is open out there, with few humans. Plenty of rocky overhangs and steep, impassable cliffs. Perfect for this stealth, flying feline-like apex predator. 

It is a dragon; make not mistake. Some reports just call it a cat (cougar), others a deformed sheep, and others even an unusual sized bird. But undeniably it is a dragon by any classic measure of the word: it is long, slender, sleek, kind of slinky. Like the canyons, it can be winding and sinuous. Certainly reptilian with scales under thin fur. More dragon than the living lizard, the Komodo. 

Stueby's Outdoor Journal: Try Succor Creek State Park for ...Its back is ridged. Probably its best adaptive camouflage. Nearly ever canyon of rock outcrops has a 'ridge' of jagged peaks and needles or dark reddish rhyolite or tuff, making shadowy ledges. Like the emerging dorsal fins of a school of sailfish. Perfect territory to hide, remaining stealth.

I'm probably one of the few of have observed one (one? are there many? just one? unknown.) closely; close enough to clearly see the face and far too close for comfort. Well, I am one of the few willing to speak of it. Either folks laugh it off, or folks give me an all-too-knowing shirking side-glance as if to say "we do not speak of it". Like its Voldemort of something. As if talking about it, which is admitting existence, simultaneously confirms a persons nuttiness and beckons it out of hiding. 

Read It Then See It: The Lorax | Stop Hitting Your BrotherWhy are people afraid of it? Well, for duh it is a terrifying, fierce creature (uh, dragon!?!). But deeper, there is a historical land war here, as there is in all places where the wild and the domestic entangle. The Canyon Dragon has a rage for the miner, the cowboy, the sheepherder, the farmer... the human. Or at least what it has known of the human. As with all mythical creatures, when the mystery of the land is turned to known commodity, the myth of the land dies. A dying myth isnt quite, or still. For the better part of two centuries, the dragon has consumed pioneers, or at least their stock. This is a hell of a place for a cow; big, dumb slow pray, if it cared for the taste of gluttony at all. Herds of sheep missing. Dogs harassed. Equipment mangled. Desert disillusions. Monkey wrenching. Rumor has it, though I have not confirmed, it breaths fire and is so probably responsible for considerable range fires. Another reason to fear. Because of its threatened existence, it is feared and hated but probably recapitulates the feeling ten-fold. The Desert is a harsh place, and should never be underestimated. 

Scary it may be, but as magnificent as you can imagine a mythical beast would be. It is a unicorn, in its own way. Quite a bit dirtier, less arrogant, and with less manners. This is no forest. Not time for manners, everyone makes mistakes, and it is impossible to keep the film of dust from depositing after emerging from any [rare] bathing hole. Like other mythical beasts, it makes not sound; at least not one widely reported or that I have heard. No call, no screech, no bellow. Though maybe, I have long thought, the sound of reverberating thunder in the canyons is echoed by the beast. 

Its head, which is massive, is almost identical to a Cougar (Puma concolor) except for the huge rack of Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) curls. Its age shows in the ripples muzzle skin, tattered long shiskers, and bashed up horns. Around the neck it has a feathered color, like that of a Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), almost like a mane. Peculiarly intentionally apply colored muds to its scaly face, in lines, dots, and geometric patters. 
New Mexico Bighorn Sheep.JPG
By Jwanamaker -
By Saguaro National Park - Flickr
Large black bird with featherless head and hooked bill
California Condor -
Crotalus oreganus.jpg
Western Rattlesnake
By Connor Long -
Perhaps one of the most commonly observed parts of the dragon is the tail. Well, not visually observed but audibly. Its rattle. Similar to the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus), the Dragons tail is adorned with small rattles, which it shakes violently to warn others are "now in range". This familiar western sound blends in with the landscape and is an additional camouflage against accidental discovery.

As a match to its mis-matched head, its front paws are distinctly those of a puma, though seemingly a bit more functional as arms with some dexterity of paw. But it also has legs of a bighorn, its walking legs. Bighorns legs are agile on steep cliffs and the Canhon Dragon has four hooved legs that are as nimble as a sheep but stout as a horse.

Oh, had I not mentioned the animal is polymelia (many limbs)?

Yeah... a real beast this thing. Like a centaur, instead of horse and human: bighorn and cougar.

Im positive your questions regarding local fear of the animal are waning with every word.

As if not enough, it has a fourth pair of legs... and wings. :)

Golden Eagle
The massive Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is a very large raptor and can be seen from time to time around the Owyhee riparian areas (rare). Identical talons and wingspan equip the Canyon Dragon. While grounded, the back talons are nicely folded agains the tail, but during a raptor-like dive bomb the talons are lowered for a deadly nabbing. 

A perfectly designed beast to grab herds of domesticated sheep from the early Basque, or even a full grown cow from the flat-brimmed buckaroo cowboy. 

If you ever do encounter one, its rocky ridge back and snack rattle not sneaky enough to either evade you or warn you, it will immediately begin to intimidate you. Like a peacock or Dilophosaurus, its frill of plummage will fan out; the bustle of a fancy dancer. The Owyhee Canyon Dragon has back plumage like that of the Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus): little more yellow at the base with long, slender blade-like black feathers emanating a meter from its body. The framing plumage is an additional intimidating feature, as it rears up on its sheep legs and outstretches its cougar arms. There, on its chest, a dazzling display of two gigantic skin sacks slowly filling with air. The sacks jiggle flat while the Dragon shakes at you, with the unmistakable sound of a male grouse strut during lek. ---boowee, yeeoo uwp, bwee yoop--
The Dilophosaurus Returns in New Jurassic World 2 Set ...
Intimidating Dilophosaurus scene from Jurassic Park film -

Federal Decision Not to List Greater Sage-Grouse Shows ...
Greater sage-grouse male in strut -

As the apex predator stares you down with fierce, narrow cat eyes, a trembling body, rattling tail and swishing whiskers it is abundantly clear that this Dragon, like any other, can make a very swift corpse of you.
There is an intelligence in its eyes, you can see it is not animal instinct that fuels its disturbance. No. It is pissed. Its eyes hiss with disguist for you, human. 'An ape that has fouled the land'. Not a murderers eyes, but sick and tired of defending. Violence and intimidation are last resorts, but it never wanted any of this.

The quivering, deadly body raises up, taller, bushier, broader. Narrow eyes locked onto yours while honing on your jugular. The hind quarters begin to tighten and coil into a striking gesture for its fatal lunge.

Then speaks with an omnipresent sound from everywhere:

Protect the Owyhee. 
You are a Friend. 

I am a myth, but my disappearance it not.  

Luck Dragons | MacKENZIE's Dragon's Nest
Haku in dragon form, Spirited Away film -
McKenzies Dragon Nest Blog