Category Archive: Articles

Tips on writing by Robin Squire

All writers have their own individual ways of approaching stories and characters, as well as the actual practice of writing itself. It’s also true to say that we’re constantly learning about our craft, so to attempt to dispense advice to other writers can seem at best cocksure and misguided and at worst foolishly arrogant.

So, hey, I know no more than any other scribe who has worked steadfastly at their work to enhance and improve the clarity and depth of their output, but here are a few possibly not so ‘bon’ mots I assembled recently when someone asked me to jot down a few ‘writing tips’ regarding scripts and screenplays, which, if they work at all, would do just as well for prose fiction.

1) Pre-plan your novel or script with beginning, middle and ending. These will change as you go along, but it helps to focus.

2) When writing dialogue, the writer must live each character from the inside out, ‘hearing’ each one speak with his or her unique style and rhythm.

3) Once the dialogue is written, the writer should speak it out loud, in character, to make sure it sounds right. It’s amazing how this brings the story and characters to life. So important is this, Final Draft has a ‘read-back’ facility built into their programme.

4) On the other hand, be aware that written prose spoken out loud might sound better than it actually is, so read it through silently and critically too.

5) Some scriptwriters write the title and content of their scenes on separate cards then juggle the cards to best effect for the overall story. Book-writers can do this too.

6) Write all characters fully rounded, including very minor ones. If even one isn’t believable, nothing else will work.  Graham Greene says there’s always one of his characters he simply cannot breathe life into: if you have one like that, either work on it or delete it.

7) Writers should know their limitations. You can’t write ‘witty’ or ‘profound’ if you’re neither, so it’s best not to try. If, say, police or politics aren’t really your thing, best leave these alone or the result will come across as stilted and phoney.

8) Novel or novella? Keep your book shorter if the material won’t stretch, or the padding will show. Kindles won’t mind.

9) Can women write men, and vice versa? Yes they can, but huge subtleties of thought and behaviour separate the sexes. Watch, learn, note.

10) On writing a thriller, always keep a snake under the bed or a bared electric wire no one knows about except the reader.

11) For your story’s ending, don’t give the audience what it expects.

 

Robin Squire

 

The History of Christmas

The 25th of December is a prominent date for many reasons entirely unconnected to Christmas. It has seen many births and deaths of famous people, two coronations and the re-discovery of a new country, much of which has been ignored in the midst of the ritual seasonal festivities. In this article I will not only give the history of Christmas I will also demonstrate some of the historic events that have happened at this time of year.

Light was the focus of the annual midwinter solstice around December 21, from which the modern Christmas derives. The magical solstice ceremonies that celebrate the rebirth of the sun and later the sun gods, and in Christianity the nativity of the Son of God. This festival dates from Palaeolithic times and is found in many cultures, around the world especially those in the northern hemisphere such as Scandinavia that have long, cold winters.

Noel (Christmas) means ‘day of birth’. So it can be said that the astrologer takes the Noel of each of us into account when working out, establishing and interpreting a birth chart. However, for Christians, Noel (Christmas) refers more specifically to the celebration of the Birth of Jesus. Even though, nowadays, it’s purely religious character has gradually become blurred in favour of a more commercial ritual, a custom devoid of any substance, which does not mean very much anymore.

But to a certain extent myths, legends, symbol and history merge together and breed confusion in our minds. It’s not the story of Jesus’ birth we are going to relate, but the story of this festival. Religious for some people and social for others, which everyone celebrates on the night of the 24th/25th December, and which is above all an occasion for giving presents.

If you look at the calendar, you will notice that Christmas Eve falls each year two of three days after the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, which marks the moment when the Earth is at its farthest point from the Sun. It is the first day of winter, the moment when the Sun enters Capricorn in the zodiac, which symbolically heralds the rebirth of the day and the resurrection of the sun. Since from this moment the days get longer, whilst the nights grow shorter, right up to the spring equinox, when light triumphs over darkness and day becomes longer than night.

The day of the winter solstice was celebrated in many ancient civilizations throughout the world, where the worship of the Sun played a dominant role. It is know that our most immediate ancestors, the Celts of whom the Gaul’s formed a branch, celebrated the solstices and the equinoxes.

The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honour of the great Irish goddess Brigit, who was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smith craft, poetry and healing. The custom of giving presents on Christmas Day goes back to the Roman Saturnalia which took place each year between the 17th and 24th of December, at the time of the winter solstice. At these celebrations, in honour of Saturn, all the roles on Roman society were reversed; the slaves became masters and the masters waited on the slaves. Every excess and debauchery was allowed. Every taboo was lifted. Finally, those taking part in these Saturnalia offered each other presents on the 25th December, thus celebrating the first day of the year, New Year’s Day. It’s quite likely that the Festival of Fools from which many carnivals still draw their inspiration have been a continuation of the Roman Saturnalia.

The Celtic calendar modelled itself not on the solar year, but on the solstices and equinoxes, on the start and finish of work involved in rearing animals and growing crops. A traditional British Christmas dish would have been a boar’s head, a turkey or a goose.

The night of the 21st to 22nd December the night of the Winter Solstices was called ‘the night of the silver fir’ by the Celts and Gaul’s. On that occasion the Celts and Scandinavians burnt a huge log of fir. In Scandinavia the winter festival of Yule great logs were burned and people drank mead around bonfires listening to minstrel poets singing ancient legends.

So, even though it’s true that the Christmas tree is often associated with the myths about the tree of life or axis of the world, the tree of paradise and the tree of the cross, you can see why the fir was chosen to symbolize them. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood sprits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell when a spirit was present.

Light marks every stage of the Christmas celebration, beginning with the Advent candle and ending with the Twelfth Night fires and candles to mark the last day of the festivities and to bring protection to cattle and the following year’s corn.

In Scandinavian homes, a circle of four Advent candles that is lit on at the time on each of the four Sundays of Advent is still an important feature of the pre- Christmas period. In Sweden from Advent every window in the home is illuminated with electric branch candelabras to dispel the darkness.

A single Advent candle that traditionally has 24 marks on it is once again becoming popular in the UK, with a section of the candle lit at dust and burned for each of the days of Advent.

A Christmas Eve candle (to represent the sun) is traditionally left burning through the night of Christmas Eve, surrounded by nuts, fruit, spices and small piece of coal or wood sliver coins and a small ear of corn saved from the previous harvest. As a magical gesture to ensure there will be sufficient light, warmth and food through the winter. Like the golden candle that is frequently lit on solstice eve instead of the traditional bonfire, this custom is a direct descendant of the ancient magical solstice fire, which gave strength to the dying sun.

During the mediaeval period, and up until the Industrial Revolution, any stranger who called at a house on Christmas Eve having seen the light would be made welcome, in memory of Mary finding no room at the inn. In Ireland, Brittany and among American families who have Celtic connections, the Christmas Eve custom of leaving a lighted candle in the window to light the Virgin Mary on her was still survives.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem because the Romans were holding a census, so everyone had to go to their town of origin.

The white flowers and red berries of holly symbolize within the Christian tradition represent Christ’s blood and Mary’s virginity.

Mistletoe, which was sacred because it mysteriously grew on the most sacred tree, the oak, was ceremoniously cut and a spray given to each family, to be hung in the doorways as good luck. The Celtic Druids also regarded mistletoe as sacred and considered it a fertility symbol because of its resemblance to male genitalia. Druid priests cut it from the tree on which it grew with a golden sickle and handed it to the people, calling it ‘All-Heal’. To hang it over a doorway or in a room was to offer goodwill to visitors. Kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship it was also thought to help women conceive.

Twelfth Night is a magical but frightening period when Odin and the Wild Hunt rode across the skies on the eve of Twelfth Night, or Epiphany Eve, in England and parts of Europe. On Twelfth Night fires were lit on the highest point of a wheat field, twelve fires in a circle with a larger one in the centre. In Ireland, twelve lighted candles were placed in a sieve of oats with a larger one in the centre. In both instances they represented Jesus and the Apostles. In an older custom the central fire was said to represent old Meg, a witch, associated with the Celtic Callieach, or Hag of Winter, who was burned as a corn sacrifice.

The reindeer figure came from a representation of the horned god of the forest Celtic mythology. Santa’s 8 reindeers; Prancer, Blixen, Donder, Dancer, Cupid, Vixen, Comet, and Dasher were a much later invention from the poem called ‘A visit from St Nicholas’ by Clement Clark Moore in 1936.

The Santa Claus in red with long white beard we know today was invented by Coca Cola as a marketing ploy to advertise their popular drink in 1931, but there was a St Nicholas who lived in Myra (now know as Turkey) in about 300AD and he became a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.

There was also a good King Wenceslas who ruled Abyssinia, he worked to Christianise the people of Bohemia in 907-927 and was later venerated as a martyr and hero in Bohemia.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, the character Scrooge has a catch phrase Bah Humbug that Became associated with the ballyhoo of Christmas.

Among the famous who were born on 25th December are the British novelist Rebecca West, the American Hotelier Conrad Hilton and the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat who was assassinated in 1981.

Two great film actors died on 25th December Charlie Chaplin in 1977 and WC Field in 1946. Charlie Chaplin received a knighthood in 1975.

The timing of Fields death is somewhat ironic as it is said that he hated Christmas and all its superfluities.

Emperor Hirohito of Japan acceded to the throne on Christmas day in 1926 as divine ruler and became 124th of his line.

Somewhat further back in history, the scientist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton came into the world on Christmas day in 1642. It was supposedly in the garden of his parent’s home in Lincolnshire that he saw the falling apple, which inspired him to conceive the theory of gravitation.

Christmas day in 1497 saw the discovery, by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, of Natal the smallest province in South Africa while was en route for India.

He landed at the port of Calicut in 1498, but had to withdraw hastily from a very hostile reception many years later he return to India as Portuguese Viceroy, were he died Christmas Eve 1524.

Another explorer, Italian born Christopher Columbus re-discovered America in 1492. He set sail on 25th December in the Saint Maria under the patronage of the Spanish Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. He ran aground off the coast of Hispanola in the West Indies. The Santa Maria was sunk, but Columbus landed and spent the celebratory season with the pagan natives. He named the first European structure in the New World ‘Navidad’ the Spanish word for Christmas.

December 25th 1066 has gone down in history as the date of William the Conqueror’s coronation in Westminster Abbey, after the defeat of King Harold 11 in the Battle of Hastings.

Westminster Abbey was also the scene of the 1050 attempt to steal the Stone of Scone by the Scottish nationalists and to return it to the county of its origin.

The Nationalist took it to Arbroath, where Scotland declared its independence from England in 1320, after Edward’s death; the stone was recovered and returned to the abbey.

The holy days and fasting days act of 1551 forbid the use of any form of transport other that foot to reach the Christmas day service and Parliament make Christmas itself illegal in 1647.

There is a town in Indiana in the USA called Santa Claus and there are shops open all throughout the year selling Christmas decorations. A Christmas card drawn by John Lennon for his manager sold for £5.405.00 in April 2000.

The Christmas carol Silent night was written by Joseph Mohr in 1818 and was first played on a guitar.

The song Twelve days of Christmas comes from the time when the Catholics in England were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law during the period 1558 to 1829. The song was to help young Catholics lean the tenets of their faith. The songs gifts are hidden meaning to the teaching of the faith. The ‘true love’ mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor it refer to god. The ‘me’ who received the presents refer to every baptized person.

The other symbols mean the following:

  • 1 The partridge in a pear tree – Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments.
  • 3 French Hens – Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.
  • 4 Calling Birds – The Four Gospels and or four Evangelists.
  • 5 Golden Rings – The first fie books of the Old Testament, the ‘Pentateuch’, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.
  • 6 Geese a Laying – the six days of creation.
  • 7 Swans swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments.
  • 8 Maids a milking – the eight beatitudes.
  • 9 Ladies Dancing – the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • 10 Lords a leaping- the Ten Commandments.
  • 11 Pipers piping – the eleven faithful apostles.
  • 12 Drummers drumming – the twelve points of doctrine in the apostle’s Creed.

In some versions of the song no 3 is sung as the three wise men, Claspar, Balthazar and Melchior, but it is more usual to hear 3 French hens.

As we can see there is more to Christmas than meets the eye not only is it a pagan and Christian festival but it has many traditions that go back hundreds of years and has also known many past events throughout history.

Halloween (Samhain) the End of Summer

Samhain October 31st commonly known as Halloween is associated with many customs, some of them very clandestine, some light-hearted and some positively peculiar. Why do we Bob for apples, carve pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns and tell ghost stories on this night? Why do children go door-to-door saying ‘trick or treat’ and asking for candy, wearing fancy dress costumes?

How is Halloween connected to All Souls Day and All Saints Eve celebrated by some Christian denominations on November 1st? And what is the significance of this festival for modern day witches?

Samhain, meaning summer’s end, known in the modern world as Halloween, is the beginning of the Celtic year and a time for welcoming home family ghosts. It incorporates the Christian ‘Days of the Dead,’ ‘All souls Day’ and ‘All Saints Day.’ This is a major date in the witch’s calendar and the most important ‘Fire Festival’ of Ancient times. Samhain and Brigid’s Day ‘the period of little sun’. Thus Samhain is often named the ‘Last Harvest’ or ‘Summers End’. The Samhain holiday begins at sundown on October 31st.

In addition to it’s agriculture significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies exactly between the Autumnal Equinox and the winter Solstice, it is theorized that ancient peoples, with their reliance on astrology, thought it was a very potent time for magic and communion with the spirits the ‘veil’ ‘between the worlds’ of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones, welcomed in from the cold much as the animals were brought inside at the end of summer.

Ancient customs range from placing food out for feed ancestors, to performing rituals for Communion with those who passed over.

All Saints Eve became All Hallows Eve and this festival was intended to give respite and peace to the souls of the deceased. Bonfires were lit and encircled by a trench, which was said to represent the sun. It is believed that the souls of the dead can come back to visit their homes one last time and warm themselves on the flames of the fires. But many traditions exist that ascribe this ceremony and this time to the devil. It was told that the souls of those not at peace were released for this night to revisit their homes.

Tales and superstitions abound, many of them connected with foretelling the future. For instance, it you sit at a crossroads while a church clock strikes midnight, you will hear, called out loud, the names of congregation who will die in the coming year. Another popular practice was called ‘the oracle of nuts’. This involved placing nuts, and giving them the names of ones lover, in red-hot coals. If the nut jumped then this lover would be unfaithful, if the nut burnt and blazed then this was a sign that the man named will be true in his love for you. Another superstition tells that if you hear footsteps behind you on All Hallows Eve then you must avoid turning around at all costs, as it is death that is following you. Children born on this night are said to have second sight and to lead a charmed a protected life.

Samhain is one of the most popular of the witches holidays it is considered to be the first of the new year, since the Celts viewed time as circular rather than linear, this night that is at once the end of the year and the beginning and was considered to be ‘outside’ of time. For this reason, Samhain is a holiday of divination and a time of the dead. A night of contradiction, where life and death, opposites but part of the same thing, were celebrated side by side.

The most well known aspect of Samhain is its role as the feast of the Dead. It is a night to honour the ancestors, to celebrate their lives, and to toast their memories. It is an evening for families to gather and hear tales and legends of Great Grandfathers and stories of the kings, fairies and ghosts. In Celtic times, at the festival of Samhain, the beginning of the Celtic New Year, ghosts were believed to return shivering from the fields on All Hallows Eve, Oct 31st, seeking food and shelter in their former homes. The hearth was the central place of the home and on spiritual levels the meeting place for the upper and lower words, living and deceased.

It was considered polite to set places at the table for those recently departed and to leave food for them and for wondering souls. Lights should be placed in windows and along roads to help guide the spirits out for the night.

This was the beginning of the ever-popular Jack-o-lantern. Lights were placed in gourds so that the wind would not extinguish them and left as guides and as wards to protect the household from any vindictive souls who may have tracked them down.

At Samhain, the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, which is why the dead can cross over on this eve. It also means that it is easier to see into the future. It is a night to cast runes, deal cards and for scrying. It is also a night to make decisions and cast spells. The Celts have a tradition that is the root of the modern New Years Resolution. The tradition states that on this day, one should reflect on the negatives in ones life and perform a ritual asking the crone to help in dissipating them.

There are several forms of divination that are particular to this Halloween eve. The most entertaining were popular amongst young girls and dealt with finding ones future husband. One of the most popular of these is to gather a group of hazel nuts together. On the shells, you mark symbols representing people that you know. The first nut to crack was supposed to have the symbol assigned to your true love. Of course, this can be modified for use with any other questions.

Apples are a very popular autumn food and it would be unthinkable not to involve them in this holiday. It was said that if one cut an apple in halves (long wise so that the star in middle becomes visible) by candle light and ate it in front of ones own image, behind one shoulder will appear the face of the one who loves you most. Another tradition states that if one peels an apple so the peel comes off as one long strand and throw it over the shoulder, it will fall in the shape of the first letter of your true loves name. A somewhat less pleasant method claims that a snail placed in the ashes of the fire would draw the initial of ones true love.

The nighttimes were always a time to be wary of walking alone in the countryside. This was all the more true on the night when the veils between the worlds of humans and spirits was at it’s thinnest. Traditional lore speaks of the dead returning to visit their kin and the doors of the lands of the Sidhe or Faery Realm being opened.

In Ireland ‘The Feast of the Dead’ (‘Fleadh nan Mairbh’) is laid out by many to welcome these otherworldly visitors and gain their favour for the coming year. Many folks leave milk and cakes (‘Bannock Samhain’) outside their door on Samhain Eve or set a place at their table for their ancestors who may want to join in the celebration with their kin and family

Mexico and parts of Latin America observe the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival ‘Dia de los muertos’ at the beginning of November each year, when pictures would be left out with gifts left for the dead. Whole families would go to the burial grounds and have a picnic, and a special altar would be set up with flowers, photographs and food and drink. Such celebrations can be traced back as far as the days of ancient Egypt when departed souls were honoured during the great festival of Osiris.

For early Europeans, this time of year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the field to live in sheds until spring. Sometimes livestock was led between two fires to purify them. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for the winter. The last gathering of crops was known as ‘Harvest Home,’ cerebrated with fairs and festivals.

Communion with the dead was thought to be the work of witches and sorcerers, although the common folk thought nothing of it. Because the rise of the church led to growing suspicion of the pagan ways of country dwellers, Samhain also became associated with witches, black cats (‘familiars’ or animal friends), bats) night creatures), ghosts and other ‘spooky’ things, the stereotype of the old hag riding her broomstick is simply a caricature, fairy tales have exploited this image for centuries.

Divination of the future was also commonly practised at this magically potent time since it was also the Celtic New Year, people focused on their desires for the coming year. Certain traditions, such as bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire and baking cakes with contained tokens of luck, are actually ancient methods of telling fortunes.

Other old traditions have survived to this day; lanterns carved out of pumpkins and turnips were use to provide light on a night when huge bonfires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from this new fire; this was believed to be good luck for all households. The ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ meant ‘Jack of the lantern’, and comes from an old Irish tale. Jack was a man who could enter neither heaven nor hell and was condemned to wander though the night with only a candle in a turnip for light. But such folk names were commonly given to nature spirits, like the ‘Jack in the Green’, or to plants believed to possess magical properties, like ‘John O’Dreams, or ‘Jack in the pulpit’. Irish fairy lore is full of such references. Since candles placed in hollowed our pumpkins or turnips (common and abundant food at this time of year) would produce flickering flames, especially on cold nights in October. This phenomenon may have led to the association of spirits with the lanterns, and this in turn may have led to the tradition of carving scary faces or them. It is an old legend that the spirits of dead ancestor, or ghosts is touching candle flames with flicker on Samhain night.

‘Trick or treat’ as it is practiced in the U.S. is a complex custom believed to derive from several Samhain traditions. Since Irish immigrants to America were predominantly catholic, they were more likely to observe All Souls day. But Irelands folk traditions die hard, and the old ways of Samhain were remembered. The tradition of going door to door asking for donations of money or food for the New Years Eve Feast, was also carried over to the U. S.A. from the British Isles, hogmanay as celebrated on January 1st in rural Scotland, and there are records of a ‘trick or treat’ type of custom; curses would be invoked on those who did not give generously, while those who did give from their hearts were blessed and praised. Hence, the notion of ‘trick or treat’ was born.

The wearing of costumes and disguises is an ancient practice taken from religious festivals and carnivals to conceal oneself from malign spirits at the end of the night’s celebration.

By the 1920’s trick or treat’ became a way of letting off steam for those urban poor living in crowded conditions. Innocent acts of vandalism (soaping windows, etc.) gave way to cruel and violent acts. Organizations like the Boy Scouts tried to organize ways for this holiday to become safe and fun; they started the practice of encouraging good children to visit shops and homes asking for treats, so as to prevent criminal act. These ‘beggars nights’ became very popular and have evolved to what we know as Halloween today.

Halloween is a very important holiday for today’s witch, but they practise a variety of traditions. Many use this time to practice forms of divination) such as tarot or casting the runes,) Many witches also perform rituals to honour the dead; and may invite their deceased loved ones to visit for a time, if they choose. This is not a ‘séance’ in the usual sense of the word; Witches extend an invitation rather than summoning the dead, and they believe the world of the dead is very close to this one.

So at Samhain and again at Beltane, (May 1st), when the veil between the worlds is thin, one can attempt to travel between the worlds. This is done through mediation, visualization, and astral projection. Because witches will acknowledge human existence as part of a cycle of life, dead and rebirth. Samhain is a time to reflect on our mortality, and to confront our fears of dieing.

Some witches look on Samhain as a time to prepare for the long, dark months of winter, a time of introspection and drawing inward. They may bid goodbye to the summer with one last celebratory rite. They may have harvest feasts, with vegetables and fruits they have grown, or home brewed cider or mead. They may give thanks for what they have, projecting for abundance through the winter. Still other may celebrate with costume parties, enjoying treats and good times with friends. There are many ways of observing Samhain as there are witches the in the world.

In England today many of the Halloween traditions have re-established themselves over the past few years and it is very popular with children, but sadly in today’s climate many parents do not feel it safe to allow their offspring out roaming the streets on such activities, preferring parties to be held at home or in a safe venue.

Samhain or Halloween, the way the festival is celebrated will change but we can be sure that, in one form or another, the rite will go on.

 

Astrology and Dreams

In many ancient societies, a significant dream was shared with the whole village, it was then decided if the dream was a personal dream or a group dream. In early Mesopotamian times medicine dreams were studied to learn the intentions of the gods.

In 770 BCE the first Aesculapian sanctuaries or temples were built with the serpent symbol adorning the entrance. Treatments were of a holistic nature with bathing and fasting helping to restore the patient back to health. Patients were also given sleeping draughts to encourage them to have healing dreams. This was known as the ‘incubation dream’ and it was believed that Asclepius, the Greek God of Medicine, would appear to the patients in their dreams and prescribe cures for their ailments. Patients dreams were analysed by the priests who were also healers and known as the ‘Asclepiades’. This appears to be an early form of psychotherapy.

All through history and across many cultures, man and women have tried to read their fate in the night sky. Spellbound by the motions of the heavenly bodies, every major civilization has developed its own way of associating them with the mystic powers that determine our destiny.

Dreams about the heavens often convey a sense of the timelessness and unchanging nature of ultimate reality you can feel at one with the stars and your very being absorbed into the far reaches of the universe via journeys in your dreams.

Rarely, do the stars and planets carry pessimistic connotations although some dreamers interpret them have emphasising the triviality of human life in the face of the immense distant force of the universe.

Sometimes the dreaming mind is able to use planets to convey metaphorical meaning, drawing upon their associations with mythology, history and the universal consciousness. For example; Mars is linked with war, passion and rage; Venus with love and eroticism; Jupiter with completeness, pleasure and well being; Saturn with intelligence, masculinity and sometime with Pan or the Devil.

Planets normally appear individually in dreams, but if there is more than one it may be their juxtaposition that is important. The sun and moon together may signify the relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds, rational irrational, while Saturn and Venus can stand for the bond between male and female.

Dreams are riddled with paradoxes, and to look out, is also to look within. Thus, gazing into the night sky can be a symbol for exploring the unconscious, where the unlimited possibilities of the imagination make the everyday concerns of the conscious mind seem trivial and insignificant in comparison.

Over the centuries the interpretation of dreams seems to have been largely the domain of fortune tellers and astrologers. But Sigmund Freud investigated the dreams of the unconscious mind in his book Interpretation of Dreams. He maintained that dreams are largely due to wishes that remain unfulfilled in daily life and become actuated in our dreams. He indicated that dreams have a function and purpose. He stated that dreams came in two types; ‘the manifest content’, the story line, and the ‘latent content’, the underlying meaning of the dream.

Later Carl Gustav Jung suggested that we should ask what conscious attitude the dream offsets. The dream may then show us the direction the unconscious is heading. He also suggested that we discern whether the dream was ‘personal’ or ‘collective’. This is somewhat reminiscent of early tribal thought, Native Americans and Senoi people for example. Humanist psychology looks to the dreamer for the best understanding of their own dreams with the aid of a trained counsellor off course?

Emotions are exaggerated in dreams to present a deeper impression so that we are urged to do something. In sleep the inhibitions of the cortex of the brain are cut off so that the emotional centres are unrestrained, and thus emotions become more compelling and vivid. But are these dreams really our own. Esoteric thought assumes that they may not be.

Dreams, according to Alice Bailey’s work, fall into the following broad categories.

  • There are dreams which deal with problems and stresses of every day which probably do not have much significance and could be due to the fact that the person in not sleeping soundly enough.
  • Some dreams can be a register of true activity, the dream relates to the continuance of the day’s activity carried forward on the astral plane.
  • When we dream we are in another dimension, the astral or emotional plane, and act as observers. That dimension is people with their dreams and we can observe that is going on with other people and sometimes we remember this when we wake up. We think it is our dream but it is only an observation?
  • People on a more advanced level of consciousness, who are primarily concerned with the welfare of others, have dreams which take them to the ‘Halls of learning’ here they receive advanced teaching in the hours of their dreaming sleep.

Teaching as well as dreams and prophecy are all associated with the 9th house. Prophecy has of course, always been allied with dreams. Could it be that the predictive quality of dreams is based on the superior alertness of our unconscious minds? Whilst our conscious mind is busy with everyday activity the unconscious mind may well be adept at observing more subliminal phenomena bringing it to focus through a dream. To dream about astrology could indicate a cry for help in your waking life?

William Lilly in Christian Astrology helps us to understand the mechanics of astrological interpretation of dreams. Although he seems less than fascinated with the subject himself, he said, “I hold it vaine to be more large upon this discourse”. Nevertheless, he suggests that in Horary questions, (a chart drawn up when asking a question of an astrologer) planets in the 9th house will yield a description of the dream. Here planets seem to remain on the symbolic level, this sounds analogous to Fraud’s “manifest content” of dream theory. Further Lily suggests that the house/s ruled by the 9th house planets should pin-point the area of life linked to the dream. This could be Freud’s “latent content” of the dream?

Lily gives two examples. If the planet ruling the dream (the planet in the 9th) is lord of the 2nd house it might refer to “money or personal estate”. “The matter proceeds from kindred, neighbours of bad reports”. What effect the actual dream has upon the Querent is due to the aspect between any planet in the 9th house) or Lord of the 9th) to the Lord of the Ascendant. The Querent will be affected in a prejudicial way if the aspect is a square or opposition. For instance the 2nd house ruler afflicted, the Querent receives prejudice from the estate’.

The Querent need not fear a prejudicial interpretation of his dream if there are “good planets in the 9th house” as well as in the Ascendant. The Querent will also fare well if the Lord of the Ascendant is trine to sun, Jupiter or Venus. These might be mitigating factors to other more stressful combinations. For instance, if Saturn is in the 9th, especially when accompanied by the South Node this could indicate a nightmare quality. The house ruled by Saturn should describe the worry that has disturbed the dreamer, thus causing fretful dream or a nightmare?

It is probable that if the outer planets are positioned in the 9th house, this might describe what Jung called a ‘collective dream’. Remember how the ancients divided dreams into the ‘personal’ and ‘collective’, though not necessarily using those terms.

The planets significant of the dream may be the ‘messages of the gods’, but we have to interpret the Gods meaning. For instance, Lilly tells us that dreams of gold, money, a person in high esteem and place of preferment are significant of the Sun. Could the Sun also indicate a Mandala symbol pointing the way towards wholeness for the dreamer? The Moon tends to stir up dreams of waters which refer to our emotions. Mercury dreams describe young people or books heralding fresh news perhaps. Venus rules sweet smell, love, fine garments and banquets but is this perhaps the anima (the feminine) making an appearance for the dreamer? Mars might describe wars and violence but this just could be the stirring to animus (the masculine).

A Jupiter dream tends to indicate the gentry or church matters and happily, this might indicate an expansion or improvement in some area of life. A dream of digging up the ground, finding treasure in cave, dark places and evils are Saturn dreams. Are such dreams referring to obstacles? Uranus might join to bizarre or futuristic type dreams and could herald an unexpected change. Neptune tends to describe foggy dreams and bring dissolution of some situation for good or ill. Pluto might be significant of dreams of oppression, revealing a message or importance. With Chiron a wound may be surfacing and Lilith will deny goals and aspirations.

In his Nativities’ section of Christian Astrology Lily gives some more helpful hints to dream interpretation. He suggests good effect will arise from dreams when Venus and Jupiter are in the 9th or any other house signifying the dream. However, the aspects are all important. If the planets are afflicted; it appears there is some ambiguity in the situation. If the in fortunes are in the 9th house this point to ‘scurvy’ (shameless, scurrilous) dreams and ‘wholly deceitful’.

Directory of Dream Meanings for Astrological Figures

  • Comets: Throughout history comets have been a warning of misfortune or disaster. The modern dreamer is more liable to associate them with a danger signal; the possibility of a dazzling but temporary success followed by rapid fall and ultimate destruction. They also stand for inspiration, ideas and insights that are flashing luminously from the unconscious mind.
  • Moon: The Moon often symbolizes the feminine aspect, the goddess, the queen of the night and the mystery of veiled secret things. It is also associated with water, the tides and with imagination. A full moon may be a sign of serenity and stillness, representing the dreamer’s potential for meditation, a new moon is an obvious symbol of new beginnings.
  • Stars: As well as signifying fate and the celestial powers, the stars can stand for the dreamer’s high states of consciousness. One single star burning more brightly than the rest can suggest success in opposition with others, but may also serve to prompt the dreamer of his or her responsibilities to those of lesser capability. The brightest star could also be the one that is closest to destruction as it could be closest to burning itself out.
  • Sun: To dream of the sun has a strong implication of the masculine, the world of unconcealed things the conscious mind, the intellect, and the father. A fiery burning sun can indicate the intellect’s power to make a desert out of the dreamer’s emotional life or can indicate fame and renown. Conversely, the sun hidden by clouds can suggest the emotions overruling irrationality.

Extract from Dreamtime. (A History, Mythology, Physiology and Guide to the Interpretation of Dreams.) By Linda Louisa Dell

Published by Capall Bann, spring 2008, at £17.95 (Web page: www.capallbann.co.uk)

The Myth of Friday 13th

The fear of Friday 13th, Triskaidekaphobia, is very common superstition today. 13 is a prime number. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… it is a Fibonacci number. 13 is the `unlucky number’ and Friday the 13th is supposed to be particularly unlucky. ‘Eleven plus two’ is an anagram of ‘twelve plus one’. Thirteen is the number of hearts in a pack of cards. Rugby League is played with teams of 13 players. Under British law, when you reach the age of 13 you can get a part-time job, but you cannot work for more than two hours on a school day or a Sunday. Many streets do not have a house number 13, my flats do not have a number 13, and planes often don’t have a 13th aisle and hospitals avoid having a ward 13. Even Number One Canada Square in Canary Wharf, the tallest building in the UK, does not have a 13th floor. Aluminum is a metallic element with the atomic number 13.

Some people avoid getting married, traveling or even going out on this date. Businesses, especially finance and the stock exchange, reputedly loose millions of pounds because people don’t want to do trade on this day. Many events have enforced the fear of this date and even Winston Churchill was put off traveling of Friday 13th.

The world was shaken on Friday 13th October 1972 when a plane crashed in the Andes, 29 people perished and the 16 survivors endured horrific conditions. After two months in the mountains in appalling conditions they were finally rescued after resorting to cannibalism.

The fear of Friday 13th probably stems from the negative history attached to the day Friday and the number 13. Most of the stigma surrounding Fridays is born from religion. It is believed that Jesus was crucified, Adam ate the forbidden fruit, St Peter was crucified and St Paul was beheaded on a Friday. It was the day of public hangings and in some areas Fridays are still known as ‘hangman’s day’.

In the Roman calendar Friday was devoted to Venus, the Goddess of love. And the day is thought to be named for the Norse goddess, Frigg. It was the only day named for the feminine and was considered lucky. The Catholic religion took over the Friday and blemished the reputation of Frigg, and since then Friday has been considered unlucky. The ‘Earth Mother of Laussel’ a 27,000 year old carving found near the Lascaux caved in France often cited as a an icon depict a female figure holding a crescent shaped horn bearing 13 notches, many medieval calendars had 13 months.

The Hindus believed that it is unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place and a similar superstition is recorded from the ancient Vikings. It is said that 12 gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla, Loki the evil one, God of mischief had been excluded from the guest list but crashed the party anyway, later the god Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder which killed him. This was allegedly the origin of the saying ‘beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe’.

In Hungary, when a child is born, on a Friday 13th a few drops of blood must be burned in the same room or the infant will suffer bad luck in life. Sailors often refused to sail on a Friday. Lloyds of London, a ship insurer, is said to not to have insured vessels departing on Friday. It is rumored that that the British government tried to end these superstitions by commissioning a boat called HMS Friday, launched on a Friday, had a crew selected on a Friday and a Capitan called Jim Friday. The boat left the docks early on a Friday morning and was never seen again.

Apollo 13 ended in disaster and was launched on 11.4.70, with adds up to 13, and at 13.13 local time where mission control was based. The fear of number 13 stretches to all areas there is no car 13 in Formula 1 racing. The number was removed after two men driving cars numbered 13 crashed and died.

A baker’s, devils or long dozen is deemed unlucky and the reason for this also stems from religion. These were allegedly 13 people at the last supper and Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was the first to leave. In another old legend it states that if 13 people sit down to dinner one of them will die within a week. When you buy potatoes in a farm shop, they weigh them with an old pair of scales with weights. Although they only have three weights, they can accurately weigh any whole number of kilograms from 1 kg to 13 kg.

The Chinese regard the number 13 as lucky, as do the Egyptians who believed that life had 12 stages and the 13th therefore symbolized death, heaven, the afterlife and transformation. In the ancient religion of Mexico, number 13 was considered the most fortunate number, since it symbolized the sun, the calendar, the male and positive energy. In the cabala, the number 13 is not regarded as unlucky and in numerology 13 represents the practical, alert and intelligent. 13 is supposed to be the witches number and covens would hold their Sabbaths with 13 people. Ships sink, cars crash and people pass away, Friday 13th is famous in superstition, but are the events that take place simply coincidence or is this day really cursed. Friday 13th is just weeks away, so do we lock our doors and hide under the bed or carry on as normal?