This Yule, and this year

So we’re coming up to the end of the year, once again, and to the simultaneous onset of darkness and return of the sun, the winter solstice, the seasonal end that brings forward the new. It’s a time of year for merry-making or simple relaxation, but it also seems appropriate a place for reflection.

This year has been pretty intense for me, for a variety of reasons. It’s a year in which I’ve crossed a fair number of thresholds in life, one which seems to have played host to a slow but potent change, if not in worldview then in its conception.

It was a year in which I still had a fulfilling relationship with a woman, only to see it slip away from my hands. It was also a year in which I ended some friendships, and rebuilt others. I had a friend from very far away for a few years, who I learned a lot from, in fact he ended up being the spark for my transition into a radical leftist worldview, but from breaking off from him I came to the conclusion that he was a manipulator whose intellect proved a more than capable disguise for his true personality and proved to be more of a crypto-fascist than he let on. And so I broke away from him. Almost at the same time, the relationship I had with the kind of woman I had waited for had ended. Without blathering excessively, I can say that she was the only woman I knew so far who, at least I thought, could simply take me as I am, “let me in” as it were, let me unravel before her and over her, and in return I wanted for nothing except for us to have our own life together and for me to fulfill my loyalty to her. But the pressures of life, particularly the struggle to maintain a living, the imperfections between us, and frankly mistakes I made, caused her to become distant from me even as I did not grow distant from her, until finally we lost what we had between us.

Between breaking away from a man who could have been considering a mentor, and having to end things with a woman who really seemed like she could have been “the one” (though we are still friends), it was like I had been shed of a host of bonds, and almost thrown back into the space before they had existed. The side-effect of that, of course, is that this meant the me that was there before had resurged and deepened, carrying new knowledge through the same timeless path whose clarity had been made manifest again. What do I mean when I say this? Once the bonds had been upended, and around the same time as this happened, my concurrent studies have led me back to an important place of essencing, towards what matters to me.

I spent the last months of last year and the first couple months of this year studying and reconnecting with the history of Luciferianism. What I learned is that Luciferianism is less of a religion and more an esoteric mytho-traditional counterculture, which centers around the mythos of Lucifer as the rebellious initiator of witchcraft, enlightenment, and/or the secrets of the occult along with a set of transgressive values more or less consistent with historical notions of what is called the Left Hand Path, and often with an attendant mode of ethical, spiritual, religious, and in some cases political anarchism. It then occurred to me that this could be formatted onto, or syncretized with, an existing religious perspective. My primary instinct for this was Paganism, and this became all the clearer to me after reading The Brazen Vessel by Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech, as well through my encounters with the writings of Kadmus Herschel, reading his book True to the Earth, my short-lived fascination with Rhyd Wildermuth, and my eventual discovery of YouTube polytheism.

But this is yet a deepening of something that had always been there, in some way, even when I thought I had challenged or gotten away from it. From childhood, I revered nature, had little genuine interest in practicing Christianity and no interest in the church, told peers I believed in Jesus only to avoid possible punishment, and was fascinated throughout my life with the gods of old and their stories, along with those who still revere them. That theme continued through my eventual embrace of first Satanism and then later Luciferianism, and the eventual intellectual quest that I would undertake on behalf of the Luciferian Idea. That my mind should continually revisit some kind of Pagan perspective, and that, when I stand at the beginning and the end and seek a primary mode of spiritual expression, I should return to it, is not a surprise. It seems to be my fate.

But for years, the limits of secular humanism and the Enlightenment had impressed themselves upon me, and presented limits that conditioned the way I engaged with the religious and the spiritual. It’s a framework whose limits I don’t see myself as having fully transcended, but reading A World Full of Gods by John Michael Greer, as well as some of Kadmus’ posts, checking out some of Ocean’s videos, and observing the developments of atheism and anti-theism has helped me begin to make sense of it. It is then that I see some of the most salient anti-clerical ethos and ideas of Satanism, atheism, and in a sense Epicurean materialism, given greater meaning and religious sense in the Paganism that I have sought to renew and deepen, over time. Most recently, and pretty amusingly, I learned that even kink can be a religious activity, a knowledge that I think disrupts the imposed boundaries between secular life and religio-magickal life, and, ironically enough, showing the latter to be disruptive of normative societal expectation. The same insights have relevance to the pursuit of the occult, the deepening of which can only be accomplished by further study. But at present I’m now fairly agnostic about it, yet this itself is a kind of religious agnosticism, inherited from the skepticism expressed in Cicero’s De Rerum Natura, along with a more general wisdom regarding anything divine: you must experience it in order to actually “know” it. Ironically, this would mean that my concept of religious knowledge is fundamentally a “gnostic” one (in a generic sense prioritizing expriential gnosis as the vehicle of spiritual knowledge, not specifically the sense of the sects of world-denying Christian mysticism).

All of this has taken place throughout this one year, and as I approach the annual new dawn of the sun’s light, I am compelled to draw myself to reflection of all of that in one day. And there is but more. I see myself striving to eliminate the contradictions I once walked in, and take the politics of liberation more seriously than ever before, but in so doing reinvigorating my former self, once again in the light of new knowledge, and new ways of seeing liberation. That itself has but one mission: the fulfillment of liberation as an existential choice, and, in a much broader sense, the realization of the Luciferian Idea, to make it not merely fully internal, but external and total. Actually, there is another mission: to renew myself as I really am, in what could almost be thought of as a gestalt sense, and as a fighter ablaze with demon eyes. This is what comes not just with seeing previous bonds collapse but also being alerted to what matters, and remembering the reality of things. Seeing the truth of contemporary electoral politics unfold, knowing that people still die for their differences, internalizing that we either fight for what we have, what is our right, and what we desire as the future, or embrace the violence of our world unto ourselves forever, as its eternal human sacrifices to its own progress, and above all, revisiting the shadow of war, the war for life itself.

With that, be assured that my journey is far from finished, nor is my knowledge and discovery. I’m waiting for my life to change – no, I’m waiting for the chance to change my life – in a big way. I’ve gained a significant sense of mobility after so many years of struggling with driving lessons, and my work has resulted in a slow but certain growth in my savings such that exceeds anything I ever enjoyed as a student. I mean sure, there’s still a global pandemic out there, and that means dealing with the stifling “new normal” that comes with it, at least so long as there doesn’t seem to be much of a way out yet, but as long as human tenacity leaves from for us to adapt, and if we’re honest at least as long as my regional government ensures somewhat more favorable conditions than the rest of the union, I might well be able to just sort of kind of prosper. I seek to build a life so as to not merely cultivate myself but also to make my internal external, engrave strength into my life, create as I please, and glide my feet through the darkness. I will build my own world, so to speak, continue to follow William Blake’s maxim that I have emblazened on this blog, and one day, I will once again find one beautiful bright spark, like the one I had known before.

Now, to finally return specifically to the subject entailed in the title: Yule, Christmas, the holidays, whatever, The Winter Mass as I sometimes called it in the past. There’s a fluidity to genuine Paganism that makes some exclusionary attitudes to the festive season make remarkably little sense. “Christmas is Christian”, it is said, by Christians who insist it is their property and some non-Christians who seem to concur without a second thought. As Andrew Mark Henry has elucidated, in antiquity both polytheists and Christians celebrated the winter solstice, sometimes partaking the same celebrations, and for different yet altogether common reasons. Polytheists celebrated December 25th as what was recognized officially as the traditional Roman day of the winter solstice, while Christians calibrated the birth of Jesus as December 25th so as to correspond to a given date of his death, March 25th, and the life cycle of the sun and thus the cosmological significance of the winter solstice, all to ensure the full apotheosis of Jesus. It was not so much the birth of a single sun god but rather the specific appearance of the sun in a cosmological sense that marked the season, which was celebrated in any number of ways then as now, and rather than Christmas having been “stolen” from Pagans by Christians, everyone had their own solar narrative, celebration, and theology to correspond to that annual cosmological event, sharing its cosmological significance as expressed in differing religious significances.

On this basis, the only reason there need be to celebrate Yule in the same space as Christmas is because their divergent celebrations occupy the same cosmological space. Christmas is technically not Yule, Yule is technically not Christmas, but they overlap, and now in our largely secularized culture the exact boundaries between the two can be incredibly porous. Of course, from a consistent Pagan perspective, this should not matter as much as it would for Christians except when defining traditional contexts. Even if you’re doing a certain form of reconstructionism, from the standpoint of the polytheists of antiquity, there was no inherent reason to oppose the integration, syncretism, adoption, or interlocking of customs from any number of foreign traditional backgrounds into your own traditional context. The exceptions, such as the banning of the Bacchanalia in Rome and the explusion of Jews as worshippers of Sabazius were essentially politically driven, reflective not necessarily of polytheistic religiosity in its implications and premises but instead contemporary conservative agendas predicated on a distrust of foreignness and mystery tradition and the desire to preserve certain notions of archetypical moral order. In simple terms this would mean that, a Greek for example, could partake of the gods and customs of various other traditions, even from Judaism or Christianity (as is evidenced in the Greek Magickal Papyri). In some cases of later Christian missionary efforts to convert the polytheists, missionaries would recoil with frustration when some polytheists would react to the presence of Christianity by simply worshipping Jesus as one more of their multiple gods. This, incidentally, is part of the same argument by which I justify the incorporation of Luciferianism, left hand path occultism, and its attendant demonological tendencies as part of a Pagan practice, and even as expressions of rebellion defined within that same context.

In a similar sense it really doesn’t matter whether or not Odin was Santa Claus, not least because, I mean, you don’t actually worship Santa Claus do you? More to the point you can pretty easily lean into the whole “Yulefather”/Jolfadr connection as a meme, mostly for irony but also as a form of detournement; in this case, subverting the dominant secular capitalist culture by converting one of its archetypes into a representation of the gods of old. In that spirit, I was hoping this year to actually get a sweater themed around Odin as Jolfadr that I remember seeing three years ago for precisely this purpose. Unfortunately, however, the website that originally carried it has since disappeared. I ended up setting with a different sweater, themed around Lord of the Rings but sufficiently festive-looking and, with its particular colour scheme and a big fat Eye of Sauron at the centre, actually seems to fit my sensibilities as a fan of dungeon synth and black metal, to say nothing of the left hand path of course.

Well, anyway, that about does it for Yuletide reflections that I wanted to get off my chest. I might have reserved this post for December 25th, but Solstice is Solstice. Well, that and I have a big essay on Shin Megami Tensei V scheduled for Boxing Day, in lieu of my original plan to publish it in January 2022 at the earliest. So, have a happy Yule, a good solstice, a Merry Christmas, a festive winter mass, and a happy and vibrant New Year, if you can.

“God Jul” by Jenny Nyström (1854–1946)

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