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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in christmas

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

dove-2015Every year, it seems, I'm bewildered by all the fuss about Christmas. And every year I eventually rediscover, or revive, a meaning for the season.

This year, as in other years, it's happened a day or two before December 25, and now I'm scrambling to join the Christmas cheer. This is the story...

I'd recently finished reading Margaret Starbird's Magdalene's Lost Legacy: Symbolic Numbers and the Sacred Union in Christianity. Another of her books about Mary Magdalene, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, was a major inspiration when I was writing The Woman's Belly Book, so intrigue led me to read more of her work.

In Magdalene's Lost Legacy, Starbird presents the system of number-coding called gematria, how it figured in the writings of early Christians, and what it means for understanding Mary Magdalene and the return of the Sacred Feminine to Western culture.

These subjects are, of course, intricate and deep. Here's how I've rolled them into this year's Christmas card — and how they've spiralled into the Source Energy, the pro-creative power, dwelling within our body's center:

What's gematria? The way I'm understanding it, gematria is an ancient practice that links mind to spirit by relating letters to the vast significance of number.

Greek and Hebrew alphabets imbue each letter with a numerical value. Summing the numbers assigned to each of the letters in a word reveals another number, another dimension of meaning, another connection to human experience. The Greek word for “dove” is peristera, written περιστερα, with these numerical values:


These Greek letters spelling “dove” add to 801. The number 800 corresponds to the Greek omega (Ω); the number one corresponds to alpha (α). With gematria of 801, the dove is the “Alpha and Omega,” the unity of beginning and end. Reaching from first to last, it is completion, fulfillment.

What's more, the sum of the numerals comprising 801 is 9, a trinity of threes, the epitome of three. Three carries the significance of the circle, the unconditional acceptance that encompasses both this and that. Three enfolds dualities into one wholeness: the Sacred Marriage yields the Divine Child.

For the early Greeks, the dove signalled the presence of Aphrodite, embodiment of love and beauty — she who brings life, death, and peace to the world. Early Christians understood the dove to signify Sophia, Holy Wisdom; they later adopted the dove as sign of the Holy Spirit.

The gematria of “Holy Spirit” (το αγιον πνευμα) is 1080. That same number, its numerals adding to nine, is the measure of the moon‘s radius in miles. Given numbers one, eight, and nine, gematria links Holy Spirit with moon, goddess, Sophia, the feminine — and with the dove.

In this light, the dove (801) coming to rest upon Jesus’ shoulder at his baptism in the River Jordan heralds the descent of the Holy Spirit (1080) — Sophia — into his nature. Indeed, early Gnostic Christians understood Sophia to be incarnate in the dove sparking Mary’s pro-creative power to birth Jesus as the child of Holy Wisdom.

Pro-creative power, yes.

That's what more or less fits into a Christmas greeting. For the illustration, I filled the dove with a pattern of Chinese spirals and sent her flying over a shrine in which doves perch atop three pillars. This miniature clay shrine, found in Knossos, Crete, dates to 2000 years before the birth of Jesus.

What about those pillars?

As the Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood was developing, I called number 13 in this sequence of belly-energizing exercises "Stretch Up/Press Down," describing its way of tracing a vertical axis.

As I did with each of the 23 moves in the sequence, I paired this gesture with an ancient artifact conveying a sense of the Sacred Feminine. In this case, I paired the move with an image of pillar, recalling Sophia's "pillars of wisdom":

Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn out her seven pillars...
— Proverbs 9:1

I made a clay replica of the three-pillar shrine presented in Elinor Gadon's The Once and Future Goddess. (For more detail, see the color photograph of the original, displayed at Greece's Heraklion Archaeological Museum, here.) I also sketched the shrine as a line drawing.  

 Gadon fig 66Clay replica informed by photo in Elinor Gadon's The Once and Future Goddess


Incorporating that sketch, the Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood shows Stretch Up/Press Down as a gesture of affirmation: As we let go of preconceptions and expectations, we can attune more nearly to our inner wisdom, to Sophia:

text-line drawing

Still, pillars are powerful phallic emblems, and doves perched upon pillars show us something about the Sacred Marriage. 

Indeed, there's a lot of Sacred Marriage going on this season:

The shaft of light at the dawn of winter solstice penetrating deep into the dark of Neolithic earthworks such as the tomb at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland. The Hebrew Shekinha — the word's Semitic root refers to birds nesting — partnering Yahweh. The virgin Mary partnering Deus. The prelude to Mary Magdalene, understood by early Gnostic Christians as an incarnation of Sophia, partnering Jesus.

Maybe next year I'll be writing a post titled "Sex and the Santa Claus."

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Pagan News Beagle: Fiery Tuesday, December 15

People in Japan and Palestine find common ground rebuilding their communities. A Jewish survivor of the Holocaust decries racist attitudes towards modern refugees. And the Front National, a populist and xenophobic party in France, rises in electoral support. It's Fiery Tuesday, our weekly segment on political and societal news from around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Pagan News Beagle: Airy Monday, December 14

Christmas' most iconic monsters are listed. A comic featuring fairy tales from Asia prepares for its release. And Marvel's new Native American / American Indian superhero's debut is reviewed. It's Airy Monday, our weekly segment on magic and religion in pop culture. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Pagan News Beagle: Airy Monday, December 7

Dark Horse Comics publishes a new story about mage hunters of BioWare's popular Dragon Age setting. Jason Mankey takes on some of the common myths about Christmas. And Disney pushes for a series of films about Merlin. It's Airy Monday, our weekly segment about magic and religion in pop culture! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
December Madness

I don't even remember what finally set me off.

One too many Starvation Army bell-ringers?

One too many Muzak Silent Nights?

One too many smiling faces wishing me something that I don't want?

Whatever it was, by the time that I got to work, I was in a state.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Ramadan Rush

Oh great, just what we needed: another Christmas.

Snarled traffic. Interminable lines in the stores. Frayed tempers everywhere you turn.

Yes folks, it's Ramadan.

My neighborhood is diverse. Just to give you an idea: the woman on the corner is a labrys-wielding Goddess militant (her description). The Latino family next to her are Catholic. Next to them, Hindus upstairs and a secular Jew downstairs. Then there's us, Witch Central. Penny next door is some sort of Baptist. The Somali family next to her are Sunni.

And that's just the first six houses.

Like a surprisingly large amount of Muslim religious practice, the Ramadan fast is an old pagan custom; it used to be the moon during which the summer solstice fell. Muhammad is said to have chosen a fully lunar calendar over a lunar-solar one specifically so that the Muslim calendar would careen around through the year, thus avoiding the accumulation of those inevitable (and inevitably pagan) seasonal customs, like the Christian calendar did. Say what you will about Muhammad, you can't say he wasn't savvy.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Cowan Yule

The single best defense against Christmas is a good Yule.

I sometimes worry that I live too much in the pagan ghetto. Most of my friends are pagan; I live in a pagan home, immersed from day to day and from season to season in pagan culture. I know that there's a wide world of non-pagans out there. But after all these years, I also know who my people are, where my home is, and what my work is.

Midwinter's Eve our job is to bring the Sun up out of the Dark. We sing the Sun down, we light the fire; we dance, we sing, we keep the fire-watch through all the long night. 7:47 a. m. Midwinter's Day will find us out on the east pedestrian walkway of the Washington Avenue bridge, singing the Sun up out of the Mississippi Valley. December is on average the cloudiest month of our Minnesota year, when Earth and Sun hide themselves in their mysteries. But in those years when we actually see the Sun rise out of the river valley, with light and color flooding back into the world, well...that's Yule in little, and the joy of it continues for a full thirtnight of days, a year in miniature. Because we are who we are, we're part of something much larger than ourselves, something that would happen whether we were here to see it or not. It's something that we're privileged to take part in, and so long as we continue to do so, our people will continue to be. It's a joyous responsibility.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Cristina. Here in the US at least, Christmas is so massive that it can sometimes seem like a force of nature. I think it's
  • Cristina Potmesil
    Cristina Potmesil says #
    This comment, "Christmas is a human construct. If no one celebrated it, Christmas would cease to exist." is amazing. Thank you.

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