What do Norse Vikings, Swedish farmers, an Italian peasant girl, & an English Bishop have in common? Well since today is the feast of Santa Lucia you have a clue. The interesting story is in who & the why. Let’s start with the Norse Vikings. According to the old Julian calendar, December 13 was the darkest day. In modern times with our Gregorian calendar, we know this to be the Winter Solstice, usually falling on December 21st or 22nd; the shortest day & the longest night for those of us, like the Vikings, in the Northern Hemisphere. This darkest day was not a day to be out on a boat, better to be inside, possibly burning a log to keep warm -a tradition that would later become part of the winter festival – the burning of the Yule Log. But in those days, December 13 was the time of year when the ancient pagan Scandinavian farmers offered sacrifices in honor of good crops for the coming summer. These sacrifices would usually involve building a ceremonial fire to light the night.
The name Lucia comes from Lux which means light. An old legend from Sweden, names Lucia as the bride of light. The story says that on December 13, Lucia will appear riding in a lusse-cart, similar to a chariot, & if the cart breaks down, you will get lice in your hair. On Lucia night, the threshing of grain must be finished to insure a bountiful crop the next year, the horses should have on winter shoes, & all new-born babies should be baptized before Lucia night or the trolls would come & whisk them away forever. The people who lived in Vermland claimed Lucia was the queen of supernatural beings & was a worker of miracles.
To understand why we celebrate St. Lucia Day today, we need to look at the actual person. An English bishop from the Seventh Century, St. Aldhelm, gave us the story of St. Lucia as we know it today.
Santa Lucia was born around the year 300 A.D. to a wealthy Sicilian family. Although her father died when she was a baby, he left plenty of money for Lucia & her mother to be cared for. As she grew Lucia learned of The Christ & was raised in the Christian faith. She made a secret vow never to marry but instead to spend her life serving the poor. Her mother was unaware of this vow, & pressed her to marry a man who was pagan. Although she resisted, Lucia became engaged to this man.
Around that time, her mother suffered from unexplained bleeding, & Lucia persuaded her to go to the tomb of St. Agatha to pray. Miraculously, her mother was healed. After this, Lucia told her mother of her vow never to marry, & persuaded her that in gratitude to God they should give away their wealth to the poor of the city. So, by candlelight, the mother & daughter went about the city secretly ministering to the poor. Some even said she would bring food to the poor people living in caves, & that because she needed both hands to carry the food, she strapped candles to her head.
As a result of her vow, the young man she had been engaged to was furious. Not only did he lose the opportunity of having the beautiful Lucia as his wife, he also missed out on the great amount of money that would have been her dowry that he would have received in the event of their marriage. He went to the governor & accused her of both being a Christian, & aiding other Christians. At that time, it was illegal to be a Christian. Lucia was called before a judge & given the chance to renounce her faith, but she refused.
The judge ordered her to be taken away & executed, but the soldiers who came to drag her away could not budge her. Instead, they put wood around her & laid a fire beneath her, but the fire would not light. Finally, the judge called forth one of the soldiers & told him to kill her with his sword, which he did, but not before they tortured her & cut out her eyes because they shone with such beauty that all who looked at her felt love & mercy.
Many years later, Sweden was in the grip of a terrible famine. At the height of that dark, icy winter, hunger & suffering were at their worst. People were reduced to grinding tree bark to bake into bitter bread. But on the long night of Santa Lucia Day a brilliantly lit ship came sailing across the stormy waters of Lake Vannern. At the helm stood a beautiful young woman dressed all in white, with a face so radiant that there was a glow of light all about her head. As the vessel touched shore, great quantities of food & clothing appeared with her for the starving. When asked her name, she simply replied “Lucia”. When all were fed & cared for, the vessel disappeared as quickly as it had come. To this day, the people of Sweden celebrate the remembrance of Lucia, & how she came to save the people of their country.
The emblem of eyes on a cup or plate recalls her torture & suffering & reflects popular devotion to her as protector of the light which brings sight. In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown in Gothic art holding her eyes on a golden plate. She also holds the palm branch, symbol of victory over evil.
The story of St. Lucia resonated particularly in Scandinavia where it became mingled with those earlier Norse legends. Today it is one of the very few saint days observed in Scandinavia. Put the two together, the religious & the folklore, & you create a warm & joyous day dedicated to the finding of light in the darkness.
Last year my daughter, who was attending the YIP program in Jarna Sweden called to say, that they do indeed celebrate this joyful fest, which begins before dawn. Traditionally it is the oldest girl in the family rising to make saffron buns & coffee for her parents. She wears white, with a red sash & a wreath of candles on her head. Other girls in the family are dressed in white as attendants & the boys are dressed as “star boys” with pointy star hats.
In the pedagogy of the Waldorf schools, the 2nd grade studies the Saints, so they take up this festival. The youngest in the class wears the candle crown & the class processes thru the hallways singing:
Santa Lucia, Thy light is glowing
All through the darkest night, comfort bestowing
Dreams float on wings of night,
Comes then the morning light
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Through silent winter gloom, Thy song comes winging to
Waken the Earth anew, Glad carols bringing,
Come thou, oh queeen of Night,
Wearing thy crown so bright,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Santa Lucia, Christmas foretelling,
Fill hearts with hope and cheer, Dark fear dispelling,
Bring to the world’s call,
Peace and goodwill to all,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy’s Day is viewed as an event signaling the arrival of Christmastide, pointing to the birth of the Light on Christmas Day. It is said that to vividly celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light.
St. Lucy is the patron saint of the city of Syracuse (Sicily). On 13 December a silver statue of St. Lucy containing her relics is paraded through the streets before returning to the Cathedral. Here, it is traditional to eat whole grains instead of bread on 13 December. This usually takes the form of cuccia, a dish of boiled wheat berries often mixed with ricotta & honey, or sometimes served as a savory soup with beans.
St. Lucy is also popular among children in some regions of North-Eastern Italy, where she is said to bring gifts to good children & coal to bad ones the night between 12 & 13 December. According to tradition, she arrives in the company of a donkey & her escort, Castaldo. Children are asked to leave some coffee for Lucia, a carrot for the donkey & a glass of wine for Castaldo. They must not watch Santa Lucia delivering these gifts, or she will throw ashes in their eyes, temporarily blinding them.
In Hungary & Croatia, a popular tradition on Saint Lucy’s Day involves planting wheat grains that will eventually be several centimeters high on Christmas; this new wheat serves as symbolic of the new life born in Bethlehem, the Nativity, & a candle is sometimes placed near the new plant “as a symbol of the Light of Christ”.
In Denmark, the Day of Lucy (Luciadag) was celebrated on 13 December 1944, as an attempt “to bring light in a time of darkness, a passive protest against German occupation during the Second World War, but it has been a tradition ever since.
Historically Norwegians considered what they called Lussinatten the longest night of the year & no work was to be done. Between Lussi Night & Yule, trolls & evil spirits, in some accounts also the spirits of the dead, were thought to be active outside. It was believed to be particularly dangerous to be out during Lussi Night. According to tradition, children who had done mischief had to take special care, since Lussi could come down through the chimney & take them away, & certain tasks of work in the preparation for Yule had to be finished, or else the Lussi would come to punish the household. The tradition of Lussevaka – to stay awake through the Lussinatt to guard oneself & the household against evil, has found a modern form through throwing parties until daybreak. Another company of spirits was said to come riding through the night around Yule itself, journeying through the air, over land & water. This might be an echo of the myth of the Wild Hunt, called Oskoreia in Scandinavia, found across Northern, Western & Central Europe.
Legend also has it that farm animals talked to each other on Lussinatten, & that they were given additional feed on this longest night of the year.
In Saint Lucia, a tiny island in the Caribbean named after its patron saint, St. Lucy, 13 December is celebrated as a National Day. The National Festival of Lights & Renewal is held the night before the holiday. In this celebration, decorative lights (mostly bearing a Christmas theme) are lit in the capital city of Castries; artisans present decorated lanterns for competition; & the official activities end with a fireworks display. In the past, a jour ouvert celebration has continued into the sunrise of 13 December.
Dante also mentions Lucia in Inferno Canto II as the messenger “of all cruelty the foe” sent to Beatrice from “The blessed Dame” (Divine Mercy), to rouse Beatrice to send Virgil to Dante’s aid. She has instructed Virgil to guide Dante through Hell & Purgatory.
What would it be like to use this feast day as an opportunity to ‘see’ the growing darkness with eyes of hope, knowing that in the dark womb the light will be reborn, again & yet again.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
662- Feast day of Saint Odilia, patron saint of good eyesight, & of Alsace.
By tradition she was born blind. Her father did not want her because she was a girl & handicapped, so her mother had her brought to Palma where she was raised by peasants there. A tenth-century legend relates that when she was twelve, Odile was taken into a nearby monastery. While there, the itinerant bishop Saint Erhard of Regensburg was led, by an angel, to Palma where he baptized her Odile (Sol Dei), whereupon she miraculously recovered her sight. Her younger brother Hughes had her brought home again, which enraged her father so much that he accidentally killed his son. Odile miraculously revived him, & left home again.
She fled across the Rhine to a cave near Freiburg Germany. It is said the cliff face opened up in order to rescue her from her plight. In the cave, she hid from her father. When he tried to follow her, he was injured by falling rocks & gave up.
When her father fell ill, Odile returned to nurse him. He finally gave up resisting his headstrong daughter & founded the Augustine monastic community of Mont Ste. Odile in the Hochwald, Bas-Rhin, where Odile became abbess.
Some years later Odile was shown the site of Niedermünster at the foot of the mountain by St. John the Baptist in a vision. There she founded a second monastery, including a hospital. The local well is still said to cure eye diseases.
St. Odile died about 720 at the convent of Niedermünster. At the insistent prayers of her sisters she was returned to life, but after describing the beauties of the afterlife to them, she took communion by herself & died again.
1204 – Deathday of Maimonides, a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific & influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician. Born in Cordova, (present-day Spain) on Passover Eve he worked as a rabbi, physician, & philosopher in Morocco & Egypt.
During his lifetime, most Jews greeted Maimonides’ writings on Jewish law & ethics with acclaim & gratitude, even as far away as Iraq & Yemen, his copious work comprises a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. He is sometimes known as “ha Nesher ha Gadol” (the great eagle) in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.
Aside from being revered by Jewish historians, Maimonides also figures very prominently in the history of Islamic & Arab sciences. Influenced by Al-Farabi, Avicenna, & his contemporary Averroes .He in his turn influenced other prominent Arab & Muslim philosophers and scientists. He became a prominent philosopher & polymath in both the Jewish & Islamic worlds.
Maimonides exerted an important influence on the Scholastic philosophers, especially on Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas & Duns Scotus. He was a Jewish Scholastic. Educated by reading the works of Arab Muslim philosophers , he acquired an intimate acquaintance not only with Arab Muslim philosophy, but with the doctrines of Aristotle. Maimonides strove to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy & science with the teachings of the Torah.
1466 – Deathday of Donatello, Italian painter & sculptor
1476 – Birthday of St. Lucy Brocadelli, mystic & stigmatic. Lucy was born in 1476 on the feast day of St. Lucia, the eldest of eleven children in the town of Narni (then called Narnia) in the region of Umbria. When she was only five years old, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Two years later, she had another vision, this time of the Virgin Mary accompanied by Saint Dominic. Dominic is said to have given her his scapular at this time. When she was twelve years old, Lucy made a private vow of chastity, & she determined to become a Dominican nun.
Circumstances, however, changed to make doing so impossible as her father died the following year, leaving her in the care of an uncle. This uncle, following the wish of her father while he was still alive, decided that the best course of action he could take would be to get Lucy married as quickly as possible.
He made several attempts to do so. One of these included holding a large family party. He had invited the man he had chosen to become Lucy’s husband to the party, with the intention of having the couple publicly betrothed. He however had not informed Lucy of his intentions. The suitor made an attempt to put a ring on Lucy’s finger, only to be slapped repeatedly by her for his efforts.
A later attempt involved Count Pietro di Alessio of Milan, an acquaintance of the family. Lucy was actually quite fond of him, but felt that her earlier vow of perpetual virginity made the marriage impossible. The strain Lucy felt as a result of the conflicting feelings made her seriously ill. During this time, the Virgin Mary & Saint Dominic again appeared to her, this time accompanied by St. Catherine of Siena. They reportedly advised Lucy to contract a legal marriage to Pietro, but to explain that her vow of virginity would have to be respected & not violated. Pietro agreed to the terms, & the marriage was formalized.
Lucy performed austere penances, which included regularly wearing a hair shirt under her garments & spending most of the night in prayer as well as helping the poor. The servants told her husband that Lucy was often visited in the evenings by Saint Catherine, Saint Agnes, & Saint Agnes of Montepulciano, who helped her make bread for the poor.
However, when one of the servants came up to him one day & told him that Lucy was privately entertaining a handsome young man she appeared to be quite familiar with. He took up his sword & went to see who this person was. When he arrived, he found Lucy contemplating a large crucifix. The servant told him that the man he had seen Lucy with looked like the figure on the crucifix.
Later Lucy left one night for a local Franciscan friary, only to find it closed. She returned home the following morning, stating that she had been led back by two saints. That was enough for Pietro. He had her locked away for the bulk of one Lenten season. She was visited only by servants who brought her food. When Easter arrived, however, she managed to escape from Pietro back to her mother’s house &, on 8 May 1494, became a Dominican tertiary. Pietro expressed his disapproval of this in a rather dramatic form—by burning down the monastery of the prior who had given her the habit of the Order.
In 1495 Lucy went to Rome & joined a group of Dominican tertiaries who were living in community. The next year she was sent to Viterbo to establish a new convent & here she found she was frequently the object of unwanted attention, as she was reported to have received the stigmata. Lucy did her best to hide these marks, & was frequently in spiritual ecstasy. The house had a steady stream of visitors who came to speak to Lucy, &, often, just to stare at her. Even the other Sisters were concerned about her, & at one point called in the local bishop who watched Lucy go through the drama of the Passion for twelve hours straight.
The bishop would not make a decision on Lucy, & called in the local Inquisition.
At that time Pietro also came to her, making a final plea to persuade Lucia to return with him as his wife. She declined, & Pietro left alone. He would himself later become a Franciscan friar & a famous preacher.
When Lucy returned to the convent in Viterbo, she found that the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d’Este I, had determined to build a convent in Ferrara, & he wanted her to be its prioress. Lucy, the Dominican Order, & the pope all agreed quickly to the new proposal. Lucy’s departure precipitated a conflict between Ferrara & Viterbo which would continue for two years. Viterbo wanted to keep the famous mystic for themselves, & the Duke wanted her in Ferrara. Lucy escaped secretly from Viterbo & was officially received in Ferrara on May 7, 1499. Thirteen young girls immediately applied for admission to her new community.
The local Prior Provincial of the Dominican Order would not permit any member of the Order to see her. There are records that at least one Dominican, Catherine of Racconigi, did visit her, evidently by bilocation,& that Lucy’s earlier visitations by departed saints continued. This punishment was to last her entire life. When she died her body was laid out for burial & so many people wanted to pay their last respects that her funeral had to be delayed by three days. Her tomb in the convent church was opened four years later & her perfectly preserved body was transferred to a glass case.
When the French Revolutionary Army suppressed the convent in 1797, her body was transferred to the Cathedral of Ferrara, & then in 1935 to the former Cathedral of Narnia. Lucy was beatified by Pope Clement XI on 1 March 1710.
Holiday Market at the Rudolf Steiner Branch
4249 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago
18 December 2021 – from 11 am – 4 pm
Handcrafted gifts, décor & toys
Featuring Live Music, Puppetry & Candle Dipping!!!
Dear friends – Please Join Us as move toward the Winter Festival Season:
Thursday 23 December 2021 – The Eve of the Eve –
11 am PT / 12 pm MT / 1 pm CT / 2 pm ET / 7 pm UTC
A Christmas Festival with Heart-Opening Movement by Lucien Dante Lazar
& a talk by our Christian Community Priest Rev. Jeana Lee
‘Divine Love and the Holy Child Within’
This will be a hybrid in-person & Zoom event
Featuring our 2 camera technology with Mary Spalding
Doors open at 12:30 pm (Zoom Room open 12:45 pm for Social time)
Snacks to Share Encouraged
Suggested donation $15.00
cash payment at the door or via the Rudolf Steiner Branch PayPal donation site –
*Please make a note on the first line – type in: “Christmas Fest”!
The Festival will be recorded
Time: Dec 23, 2021 01:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 705 293 1041
For more info. Contact Cultural Events & Festivals Coordinator
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Storytelling during the Holy Nights 2021-2022
Hosted by the Anthroposophical Society in America
”The purpose of a story is to be an ax that breaks up the ice within us.”
~ Franz Kafka
Click to Register!
All around the world the season of midwinter is the traditional time for community bonding through storytelling. In laying the groundwork for the 100-year anniversary of the Christmas Conference, we bring the ancient Sumerian saga “The Epic of Gilgamesh” to life. Rudolf Steiner explored this story in Occult History during the Holy Nights of 1910; and again with the lectures “World History in the Light of Anthroposophy” given during those fateful Holy Nights in 1923 for the re-founding of the Society.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is perhaps the oldest written tale on Earth. The Sumerian version dates from around 3000 B.C. Later it was compiled from 12 clay tablets written in Akkadian cuneiform.
It is the “Hero’s Journey” of human evolution, a story of friendship, and a quest for the meaning of life – revealing Steiner’s core mission of bringing karma and reincarnation to the west.
Myths, fairytales, historical epics, and sagas open us up to powerful archetypes behind the human condition, revealing clues to ourselves – from the past, the present, and the future. What will we uncover about ourselves and each other during this year’s Holy Nights adventure in storytelling?
Tune in for any or all of the episodes of this dramatic reading, re-worked by Hazel Archer from various translations, and featuring friends from around the world.
What: The Epic of Gilgamesh: Story Telling during the Holy Nights hosted by the ASA, Hazel Archer, and friends.
Time: 22 minutes daily at 9 am PT / 10 am MT / 11 am CT / 12 pm ET / 5 pm UTC
Dates: December 24, 2021- January 5, 2022 for 13 consecutive days
Can’t join us live? No problem. Each gathering will be recorded and posted on our Holy Nights page (link will be emailed upon registration).
How: Register Here! Then check your email for confirmation with the Zoom registration link.
Eurythmy for the Holy Nights with Jan Ranck
‘Tuning to the Stars’:
Sacred Geometry, the Planets and the Zodiac
LIVE IN-PERSON 26-30 Dec. 2021
at the Rudolf Steiner Branch Chicago 4 pm – 5 pm
And at 7pm on 31 Dec. as part of our Annual NYE Gathering (details below)
$100 for all 6 sessions, or $22 for each individual session.
Cash at the door, or send a check to:
Rudolf Steiner Branch
4249 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618-2953
For more info. Contact Cultural Events & Festivals Coordinator
* Jan Ranck – Born in the USA, Jan Ranck studied music and comparative arts at Indiana University in Bloomington. She accompanied the London Stage Group on their 1976 USA tour and went on to study eurythmy at the Eurythmeum in Dornach with Lea van der Pals, where she subsequently taught. In 1984 she joined the faculty of The London School of Eurythmy. She left there to complete her eurythmy therapy training in Stuttgart in 1989, moving afterward to Israel, where she founded and directed the Jerusalem Eurythmy Ensemble (1990) and the Jerusalem Academy of Eurythmy (1992) and was an instructor in the Jerusalem Waldorf Teacher Bachelor Program in David Yellin Academic College from 1999. Jan has held Master Classes at various venues worldwide, including the Goetheanum and the MA Program in Eurythmy held at Emerson College and Spring Valley. She is the representative for Israel in the International Eurythmy Therapy Forum.
Friday 31 December 2021
Doors open at 6:30 pm
Join us for our Annual NYE Conscious Community Gathering –
The Theme for 2022 is Cabaret – a Cultural Sharing!
All are invited to take the stage with an offering.
Circles Edge & other Waldorf alum will also perform
Please bring Festival Food & Drink to share
$20 Cash at the door or Make your payment using the Rudolf Steiner Branch PayPal or QuickPay with Zelle to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Please indicate in the notes that it is for the “NYE”)
8 pm – Potluck Social
8:30 pm – Circles Edge & Friends warm the stage & host the open mic
10:10 pm – Thought-Seed Circle
10:30 pm – Clean-up…;)
For more info. Contact Cultural Events & Festivals Coordinator