Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of January 2nd - January 8th, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Columns Archive

  Christmas Day begins what is commonly called the Twelve Days of Christmas. The final day of this series, January 6th, is known in the Christian calendar as the Epiphany, the day the Magi arrived from the East to bless the Christ child.

12 Days of Christmas

Twelve to One

  The term 'Epiphany' comes from the Greek, meaning 'to manifest' or 'to show'. It is considered a feast day and is thought to be the time when God made himself manifest in human form, when he showed himself to the Gentiles. Eastern Christians believe this was when the child was baptized in the Jordan River.

  There are clues that link the Twelve Days of Christmas with a far older tradition, to the promise of the year ahead and their annual predictions.

  The relationship of Moon and Sun in the west has long been established, it is twelve to one. Most calendars of the European, African and Asian continents use this twelve to one monthly ratio. The Mayan calendar, for instance, does not. There was once a universal belief in 'As above, so below', the greater being reflected in the lesser, the Heavens reflected on Earth. One technique astrologers use is a system that demonstrates this relationship at work, called progressions. One set of progressions equates the passage of a day to a year, while another equates the passage of a day to a month. It is from this latter technique that the twelve days of Christmas are born.

  "Importance certainly has long been attached to the Twelve Days, when, for instance, the weather on each day was carefully observed to see what it would be in the corresponding month of the coming year."

   Twelve Days of Christmas, -Wiki

  This is standard astrological practice. By watching, say, the 4th day of Christmas (December 28th in this system), the weather for the month of April (the 4th month) might be observed for the local area. If the day was stormy, so would the month be.

Ring-necked pheasant

Ring-necked pheasant

  The importance of these twelve days as 'holy days' then becomes apparent. If these are the 'seed' days of the 12 months ahead, then by holding them in reverence and sowing good deeds on our daily rounds, the bouquet of the months might blossom accordingly.

  The mythological clues we see preserved in the carol suggest that the roots of this 'heavenly reflection' derive from a very, very old tradition, possibly dating back to four to six thousand BC and the 'Age of Gemini'. When time began during the millennia of this 'Air' sign, birds were held in high reverence. In fact, they were among the most predominant artistic motifs of the time. The notion of a goose laying the golden egg derives from this period, when each 'egg' was a day of your life, the Sun's passage through the sky representing the 'day' you have been given to craft. It is a golden egg because it is life itself, like the Sun. From Wiki-

  "The fourth day's gift is often stated as four calling birds but originally was four colly birds, using another word for a blackbird. The fifth day's gift of golden rings refers not to jewelry but to ring-necked birds such as the ring-necked pheasant.

  "When these errors are corrected, the pattern of the first seven gifts all being birds is restored."

  Do you suppose that at one time, all twelve were birds?

  Blessings and Happy New Year to all.


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