January 6th is The Feast of Epiphany, In Greek: epi-phanos which means shining forth, manifestation, striking appearance or vision of The Divine.
This day is also called: 12th night, featuring ‘The Lord of Misrule’; Three Kings Day; The feast of La Bafana; The Feast of Recognition; The Adoration of the Magi; The Manifestation of God.
In ancient Egypt the 6th of January was celebrated as the Festival of Osiris – revealing the mystery of the re-membering of the Sun-god. As you know, Osiris was overcome by his enemy Typhon or Set, & the Goddess Isis, his beloved, seeks & eventually finds the 14 pieces of him buried all around the world. This notion of finding Osiris is a prefiguring of the Festival of The Three Kings, who also went looking for their representative of the Sun god. This ‘Epiphany’ was also celebrated by the Assyrians, the Armenians & the Phoenicians. Everywhere it is a Festival connected with a kind of universal baptism — a rebirth from out of the water.
In the Act of Consecration, in the Epistle at Epiphany, a word shines out like a star: Grace. 6 times it shines thru: ‘Star of Grace’, ‘Light of Grace’, ‘Grace appearance of the world’s light’…Proclaiming that the shining forth of the Grace of Christ is our Epiphany.
Epiphany, like Easter & Pentecost are Holy Days traditionally set aside for initiation rites, emphasizing the mysterious relationship between the elements of fire & water, which invokes the ability to see into the formative forces of the etheric realm.
In both the Eastern & Western churches the feast of Epiphany additionally commemorates the marriage at Cana (see John 2:1-11), at which Christ performed his first miracle, an allegory for the mixing of water & wine=liquid fire, changing water into fire, which the ancients called The Alchemical Marriage, or the Great Work…
Epiphany, has been observed since before AD 194, so it is much older than our Christmas celebrations. It has always been a profoundly esoteric festival of the highest rank.
At one time the Nativity & Epiphany were celebrated together & were referred to as the 1st & 2nd nativity; the 1st as the birth of the physical vessel prepared thru many generations from Adam down thru the House of King David; & the 2nd being Christ’s manifestation into that vessel, linked with the cosmic event of Christ’s baptism by John in the Jordan; & then moving with the blood into the earth in the death & resurrection of Easter.
The Three Kings from the East were wise men initiated into the mysteries of the stars by Zarathustra. They followed the starry script written in the heavens that was foretold by the ancient prophets, to Bethlehem, where they paid homage to the Christ-child & presented him with gold, frankincense & myrrh.
Gold reflects the kingship of The Christ as a ‘Solar King’. Frankincense, the incense of seership & worship, for meditative & invocational purposes, symbolizes his priestly role, & myrrh, a purifying substance used in healing & burial embalming, points to the crucifixion & resurrection.
The 3 kings represent the evolution of humanity, & show in their inclusiveness that The Christ Impulse is for all of humankind.
The twelve days of Christmas ends with the Feast of Epiphany which comes with its own traditions, rituals & symbols for the common folk. Carolers go from house to house; & in many homes the Christmas Tree is taken down & burnt in a big bonfire.
For the children this is an especially joyous occasion because, when the tree is taken down they get to “plündern” (raid) the tree of the sweets – the chocolate ornaments wrapped in foil or cookies, which have replaced the sugar plums, & become the raiders’ rewards.
January 6th is also called Oiche Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas, when the Irish men take on household duties for the day & the women relax & celebrate together.
The Witch of Christmas, La Befana, is also celebrated on the Epiphany – The legend of La Befana began thousands of years ago & remains to this day a tradition practiced by many folks with an Italian heritage (my father’s people are from Montefegatesi, the highest of the Bagni di Lucca villages in Tuscany) also practiced in many Waldorf schools.
The Legend: This story takes place at the time of the birth of the Matthew Jesus. La Befana is an old woman who lives in a house in the hills of Italy. Befana spends her days sweeping & baking, when she’s not needed as a healer. One night, Befana notices a bright light in the sky, she thinks nothing of it & goes back to her work. Later, a glorious caravan led by Three Wise Men stop & ask La Befana for directions to Bethlehem inviting her to join them in their search for the Christ Child. But Befana is too busy & knows nothing of this far-away place nor the birth of a special baby. After the caravan disappeared over the hills, she remembered that box of old toys that she had collected over the years, many that were tossed out because they were broken. She had fixed & re-painted them, handing them out to every child who needed one, because she loved seeing them smile. So she placed some baked goods & gifts for the Christ-child in a sack, took her broom to help the new mother clean & raced out after the caravan in search of the Baby Jesus. La Befana was soon lost. And just as she was getting very tired, angels appeared from the bright light, the magic star in the sky to give flight to La Befana on her broom –it was a night of miracles after all. She searched & searched for the Baby Jesus.
La Befana still searches, even today, after all these centuries. And so, every year on the eve of the Epiphany, whenever La Befana comes to a house where there is a child, she drops in to see if it might be the child she seeks. It never is, but Befana leaves a gift anyway. For La Befana has come to realize, over the years, that her searching is not vain, that in a way, the Christ Child is found in all children.
Ever since then the old wise woman has been known as “La Befana” or simply “Befana.” In fact, Befana’s name comes from the ancient Greek word “epifania” which means “epiphany.”
This celebration, in remembrance of the Magi’s visit, often includes purifying rites & benedictions with water. Water set out by the fireplace on the eve of the Epiphany (the night that La Befana flies the skies) is said to have sacred properties that can ward off evil spirits & is used in critical moments of a family’s life.
Celebration of the Epiphany can be traced as far back as the 9th century, & is one of the most popular Italian feasts especially in the backcountry or in the hills. In the time when our grandparents were children, La Befana was tremendously popular & was awaited with a mixture of joy & anxiety. Children hung hand-knitted stockings on the fireplace & wrote long letters to her expressing their wishes. Often they were disappointed as their families had little money to spend on gifts; however, sometimes they found little hand-sewn dolls & puppets in their stocking. If they had been bad, their stockings were filled with onions, garlic & coal. In modern-day Italy some shops sell carbone or black rock candy that actually looks like pieces of coal.
And to celebrate this day, people would gather together on Epiphany morning to & chestnuts, & fruit pancakes.
My Waldorf girl learned this song at school many years ago:
Babuska, Babuska, she sweep & sweep all day
Babuska, Babushka, would not take time away.
Kings came ariding 1, 2, 3
Over the land & over sea
Following following yonder star
Calling out to them from afar
But Babuska, Babuska, she sweep & sweep all day
Babuska, Babushka, would not take time away.
Another tradition is to sprinkle the doorways with holy water; & the mistress of the house would write with chalk K + M + B with the number of the year above the house or barn door & say: “Kaspar, Melchior, “Balthasar, behütet uns auch für dieses Jahr, vor Feuer und. ‘Protect our home from the perils of fire & water’.
20+K+M+B+21…Our modern family does this every year…
You may have seen it, especially if you’ve been to Germany or other parts of Europe – a mysterious series of letters & numbers, looking to all the world like an equation, inscribed in chalk over a doorway.
The letters are also an abbreviate of the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross.
I remember the days when I would go to the Epiphany Mass with my grandma, & they gave out satchels of blessed chalk, incense, & containers of holy water blessed especially for Epiphany. Another common practice, that my Straga-ma always observed was to save a few grains of the Epiphany incense until Easter, so that it could be burned along with the Easter candle.
Practicing traditions like the chalking of the doors helps us to awaken to the mysteries behind the Holidays. It is a practical concrete way to observe & it serves as an outward sign of our dedication to being more conscious in our thinking, feeling & willing. To consciously take the time to bless our homes – the place where many of us will make the greatest strides in our spiritual growth, through observance of daily meditation, spiritual reading to the dead, & work offered freely with love – is vital.
It also serves as a reminder of the wise welcoming that the Magi gave to the Christ Child. We can also strive to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes. To greet the Christ within every body that crosses our threshold.
Blessings & Peace ~hag
THE MYSTERIES (Die Geheimnisse) A Lecture by Rudolf Steiner given
“…K. M. B…. these letters represent the names of the Three Holy Kings: Kaspar, Melchior, Balthasar…these three wise men of the East who brought offerings of three human virtues which are symbolized…self-knowledge in the gold; self-piety, that is the piety of the innermost self — which we can call self-surrender — in the frankincense; and in the myrrh self-consummation and self-development, or the preservation of the eternal in the self.
The first king was the representative of the Asiatic races; the second, the representative of the European peoples; and the third, the representative of the African races. Wherever people wanted to understand Christianity as the religion of earthly harmony they saw in the three kings and their homage a union of the different lines of thought and religious movements in the world into the One principle, the Christian principle…Those who had penetrated into the principles of esoteric Christianity saw in Christianity not only a force which had affected the course of human development, but they saw in the Being embodied in Jesus of Nazareth a cosmic world-force — a force far transcending the merely human that prevails in this present age. They saw in the Christ-principle a force that indeed represents for mankind a human ideal lying in a far distant future, an ideal which can only be approached by our understanding the whole world more and more in the spirit.
The esoteric Christian looks on the universe as he looks on the human body. When he looks on the human body he sees it as consisting of different limbs: the head, arms, hands, and so on. When he looks on the human body and sees the movements of hand, eye, etc., these are for him the expression of the inner spiritual and psychic experiences. In the same way as he looked through the human limbs, and their movements, into that which is eternal, spiritual in man, the esoteric Christian regarded the movements of the stars, the light that streams down from the stars to humanity, the rising and setting of the sun, the rising and setting of the moon, as the external expression of divine-spiritual Beings pervading all space. All these natural phenomena were to him deeds of the gods, gestures of the gods, expressions in mime of those divine-spiritual Beings, as also was everything that occurs among mankind, when people establish social communities…
In the long Christmas winter night the novice was far enough advanced to have a vision at midnight. The earth was then no longer a veil for the sun, which stood behind the earth. It became transparent for him. Through the transparent earth he saw the spiritual light of the sun, the Christ-light. This fact, which marks a profound experience for the mystery-novice, was recorded in the expression: To see the sun at midnight.
The esoteric Christian felt that through absorption in Christian Esotericism he approached more and more that power of inward vision through which he could imbue his feeling, thinking and his will-impulses in gazing into this spiritual sun. Then the Mystery-novice was led to a vision of the greatest importance: As long as the earth is opaque the separate parts appear inhabited by people of different confessions, but the unifying bond is not there. Human races are as scattered as the climates. Human opinions are scattered all over the earth and there is no connecting link. But in the degree in which men begin to look through the earth into the sun by their inner power of vision, in the degree in which the “star” appears to them through the earth, their confessions will flow together to one great united Brotherhood. And those who guided the great separated human masses in the truth of the higher planes, towards their initiation into the higher worlds, were known as “Magi.” They were three in number, as in the various parts of the earth various powers express themselves. Humanity had, therefore, to be led in different ways. But as a unifying power there appears the star, rising beyond the earth. It leads the scattered individuals together, and then they bring offerings to the physical embodiment of the solar star, appearing as the star of peace. Thus was the religion of peace, of harmony, of universal peace, of human brotherhood, connected cosmically and humanly with the ancient Magi, who laid the best gifts that they had in store for humanity before the cradle of the Son of Man incarnate. http://wn.rsarchive.org/Le…/19071225p01.html;mark=167,29,40…
1412 – The Birthday of Joan of Arc
1828 – Birthday of Herman Grimm – Grimm’s father was Wilhelm Grimm, & his uncle Jakob Grimm, the philologist compilers of indigenous folk tales (“Brothers Grimm”). His other uncle was the painter engraver Ludwig Emil Grimm. Grimm’s reputation is that of the arch-Romantic, Gründerzeit art historian. He viewed himself as the intellectual successor of Goethe. His approach to art history was through the “Great Masters”, & arranging significance of art through a biographical account of art history. His tastes both typified & led German & continental taste. Homer, Dante & Shakespeare were the great writers of their age; in art, only Raphael & Michelangelo could compare. The nineteenth century’s adoration of Raphael is in large part Grimm’s doing.
POD (Poem Of the Day)
~Reveling in gratitude
Thinking the Angel of Joan
Opening the gifts of the Magi
Chalking doors for Epiphany
Blessing brooms with La Bafana
Getting baptized by John
Standing with the Christ
Singing with the Spheres…
Wednesday 6 January 2021, 2 pm – 4 pm CST
Joan’s Epiphany ‘What Joan of Arc Calls for Today’
In-Person at Elderberries Bio-dynamic Outpost
& online Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/7052931041
Meeting ID: 705 293 1041
As a celebration of the Birthday of Joan of Arc
We welcome special Guest Nancy Jewel Poer,
who will be premiering her Magnum Opus:
JOAN OF ARC – HER GIFTS FOR OUR TIME,
a film featuring Kai Migliaccio & Jospeh Seserman
We will also explore ‘The Destinies of Individuals and of Nations’, Lecture 5, ‘The Nature of the Christ Impulse and the Michaelic Sprit Serving It’
by Rudolf Steiner, with Hazel Archer-Ginsberg
Social Sculpture: Singing Through Joan of Arc “The Passage”
with Luicen Dante Lazar, + An Artistic exploration
Group Eurythmy with Mary Ruud
$ 10 donation at the door or http://donate.rschicago.org/
Enter on the branch side 4249 N. Lincoln
& proceed thru the Schreinerei into the Elderberries Space
Pot luck afterward in the Schreinerei – Please Bring Food to Share
For more info. contact Hazel Archer firstname.lastname@example.org