Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice XLIV A. S.

Today, the Northern Hemisphere marks the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, but more often celebrated as its belated bastardization: Christmas. The ancients established it as a festival designed to welcome the newborn sun god. Today's primitives insist that it is actually about the birth of Jesus. Then there are the more secular, but nonetheless mindless traditions of spending too much money on obligatory gifts, sending out inane greeting cards, and putting up hideous Walmart "decorations."

I'm not a scrooge. I always celebrate the 25th of December with loved ones. It's a chance to catch up, feast, relax, and exchange a few meaningful gifts. I take advantage of that mainstream holiday for my personal enjoyment, but avoid the pressures and excesses that often make it such a stressful time for the herd.

The Winter Solstice, while also a time for merrymaking, is an ideal time for ritual as well. During this, the longest night of the year, Earth's pendulum swings back: the sun gradually restores its dominance as the days grow longer once again.

Winter Solstice symbolism revolves around fire, the element most fully embodied in our sun. The metaphorical implications of this holiday are similar to those of the waxing moon; it is a time of beginnings and growth — the first movement toward Spring, and thus toward Walpurgisnacht. Relevant symbols and metaphors can serve to augment the energies of celebrants, enhancing everything from magical workings to the sheer joy of profound awareness.

While all of this is relevant to the holiday, the Church of Satan's website offers more concise insight and inspiration in this statement: "The True Meaning of Yule."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beethoven and Evocation

December 17th is celebrated as the Birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born no later than on that date in the year 1770.

Beethoven was a pioneer in orchestral evocation. His works include some of the most powerful compositions in the Western canon. It is a testament to their potency that they remain just as effective despite countless frivolous quotations throughout popular culture. This enduring power has made Beethoven a favorite among Satanists.

An excerpt of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony accompanies a reading from The Satanic Bible on Anton Szandor LaVey's 1968 recording The Satanic Mass; this moving selection underscores the bold text of The Book of Satan: Verse II.

Peter H. Gilmore highlights the Satanic aspects of Beethoven's achievements, both personal and artistic, in "Diabolus in Musica," an essay in The Satanic Scriptures that also includes a discussion of other composers and their works. Also included are detailed recommendations of exceptional works by Beethoven and others.

Evocation is among the elements that distinguish Satanism from purely secular creeds like atheism. Satanists embrace a confounding variety of aesthetic cues for personal inspiration, in rituals, and toward the manipulation of others. Many misunderstandings that people have about Satanism begin with a failure to comprehend this approach.

LaVey's essay "Evocation," from The Devil's Notebook, names music as "the most effective tool for evocation." The same essay provides profound insights into the personal and magical implications of one's capacity for evocation. In the next essay, "Music for the Ritual Chamber," Beethoven is among the composers whose works are suggested for their evocative power.

This week, cultural institutions around the world are taking time to acknowledge the brilliance of Ludwig van Beethoven. Satanists will tend to have a special appreciation of this innovative individualist's legacy on this occasion, especially because it is his Birthday.

To quote Peter H. Gilmore: "Hail Ludwig!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Repeal Day

December 5th was Repeal Day in the United States of America. I was too busy celebrating to write about it that evening, but it's worth noting a couple of days later.

On the aforementioned date in 1933, nearly fifteen years of Prohibition were brought to an end. This was a triumph of indulgence over the hangups of groups such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

Yes, Christians turned wine into water, even though their storybook says that Jesus did the opposite. Nonetheless, thank the Devil for the peristence of revelers, who refused to deny themselves this ancient pleasure. They voted with their glasses, and demand eventually overwhelmed the awful imposition of abstinence.

On the eve of Repeal Day, I completed a course in bartending. I was delighted to expand my knowledge of spirits, and may even make some extra money applying what I've learned. I attended the 40-hour mixology course at the New York Bartending School, which also offers free preview classes. I recommend them highly.

I am currently reading Imbibe!, by David Wondrich. It's a vivid history of the American cocktail and its pioneers. It also includes classic recipes, complete with historical background. It's an excellent read, a great reference, and worth studying.

If you missed your chance to celebrate Repeal Day this year, make your next drink a toast to the end of Prohibition seventy-six years ago.

Of course, it must be noted that Satanism advocates "indulgence, not compulsion." Therefore, Satanists who do drink are rarely among the puking hordes of raucous, frat-house chuggers. We're more likely to sip a fine spirit, wine, beer or liqueur, enjoying the sensory offerings of a chosen inebriant as well as its effects.

Here's to another year without Prohibition!