Pan, Beltane and the Love of the Earth

Dear Friend and Reader:

What a strange, beautiful mix of energies we’re in right now. When I was in the spiritual boot camp known as Miracle Manor, we often tossed around an expression: love brings up everything unlike itself. The only thing unlike love is fear, so if we can be prepared for that, and willing to meet it (though not on its own terms), life can be more productive. It’s one reason why it helps if people in relationship share some of the same spiritual or metaphysical language; then for example the love/fear paradigm can be used as a tool rather than as something we get caught in unwittingly.

Pan and a nymph. A fragment of relief.

I’m guessing you noticed that the ‘swine’ flu media panic is occurring just as spring is taking hold — and in the prime of Beltane season. Beltane is the month of May or the first week of May or Taurus time or the Taurus solar midpoint, depending on how you reckon. I’ll choose all of the above (once you grok Beltane you really cannot get enough), though the astrological focal point is when the Sun reaches 15 degrees of Taurus (which happens around each year May 5). There, it’s in a dialog with the four cardinal points (the beginnings of the seasons) and the three other cross-quarter days, which take place when the Sun is at the midpoint of one of the fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius).

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, where the flu story is primarily occurring, the surge of panic is arriving in the time of Pan, that is, the spring. Pan is the namesake of panic, which is mass terror. This of course reflects a strong Christian bias against one of the great gods of nature and primal male energy: the god with horns on his head, who shows up as the antagonist in their myths as ‘the devil’. Based on both American Heritage and the Oxford English Dictionary, it would appear that the word pandemic has different etymology (from Late Latin, the prefix pan means all or all encompassing) but the pun is difficult to miss, and I suspect they are connected.

So here we are in the time of Pan having a panic over an alleged pandemic. I can think of better ways to spend a spring afternoon.

Let’s not forget, however, that if this is the season of Beltane and Taurus, there is an implication of Scorpio and Sahwen (usually spelled samhain, the forerunner of Halloween), that is, the Days of the Dead. We are approaching the Scorpio Full Moon, when the Taurus/Scorpio axis is illuminated at once. That is coming up May 9. This is really the deepest mix of energies in the physical cosmos, because along Taurus and Scorpio, the whole life cycle is implied in one gesture. Beltane and Sahwen correspond with the pulse of birth/death/rebirth. The connection between sex and death, between the physical body and letting the body go, are part of that rhythm. The moral of the story is to enjoy your life.

Photo from Beltane 2008 at the Center for Symbolic Studies. Photo by Eric Francis.

I understand the challenges implied here, mainly because I’ve experienced plenty of them. I can assure you that despite this being considered one of the most stressful times in history (some of my 19-year-old models seem to be busier than I am, which is impressive), we are devoid of most of the truly horrendous stresses of recent centuries. The chances are you’ll live past 30 and survive childbirth and see your kids grow up and not die of the plague. We have a lot of demands on us and just as many options to take care of ourselves.

Our society just as this little problem of spiritual emptiness. Whenever I get onto this topic, I am reminded of the scene from the film Contact, one of my top-three favorite movies of the 20th century*, when Palmer Joss (played my Matthew McConaughey) is being interviewed on Larry King. Remember that one? He’s calmly asking if all this stuff and technology and entertainment are actually making us happy. And as his words echo into the night, Dr. Ellie Arroway and her crew at the Very Large Array telescope pick up the first ever signal from an intelligent extraterrestrial source.

LARRY KING: Are you anti-science, anti-technology?

PALMER JOSS: Not at all. The question I’m asking is, are we happier, as a human race? Is the world fundamentally a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the web. At the same time, we feel emptier. We feel lonelier and more cut off from each other than at any other time in history. We’ve become a synthesized society…I think it’s because we’re looking for the meaning. Well what is the meaning? We have mindless jobs, we take frantic vacations, deficit finance trips to the mall to buy more things that we think are going to fill these holes in our lives. I mean is it any wonder that we’ve lost our sense of direction?

Beltane Bonfire. Photo by Stuart Barrett.

Part of how we regain our sense of direction is by paying attention to natural cycles, and then slowly integrating our lives with them. At the moment, we’re in the time of renewal but we’re seeing the shadow of death, or rather having it blown into our faces like a big digital sneeze. It’s appropriate on one level, but this is coming in parody form, as paranoia rather than as a true honoring of the in-breath and out-breath of the cosmos.

What we’re seeing is fear of nonexistence as a kind of temptation, rather than as a sign of actual respect for existence. I think it’s useful in the sense that it’s a reminder how frail we feel, behind the false confidence of our high-tech lives. Though I do think that much of what we’ve been experiencing is a manipulated, fabricated product of government, corporate culture and media, the fact that we are susceptible to the terror scare of the week is potentially useful information.

Part of what it may point to is precisely that emptiness that Palmer Joss was talking about. It is a clear sign of emptiness that the media (at whomever’s behest) thinks it can throw society into spasms over a disease that does not appear to be making anyone in the United States seriously ill; without explaining, or even asking, why some patients have died, but with one exception, only in Mexico.

The brilliant part of the moment is that so many people are asking questions; many people see this for what it most likely is — a big commercial for fear and flu shots. That so many people can see through this haze is suggestive of Chiron-Neptune, which is clarifying the vision of those who seek specifically that.

All Wealth Comes from the Earth

I had a few occasions to hang out with a man named Alfred Schweitzman, and his favorite thing to say was, “All wealth comes from the Earth.” Since he was pretty wealthy, it had some credibility. I think that part of honoring the source of wealth is finding some way in our lives besides recycling to consciously honor nature, the seasons and the life of our planet. You may have already noticed this has many benefits.

Beltane Red Charge. Photo by
Miguel Arredondo.

So, how exactly would we go about offering some tribute back to the pulse of life, and the moment we are in? Besides tuning into your senses, the traditional way is with ritual — which is a tool for tuning in. There are a lot of ways to do rituals, and what makes them real is that they’re creative, sincere and apropos of the moment. On the simplest, most direct level, a ritual is a celebration. There are lots of ways to get that going; but I don’t mean a party: I mean a conscious honoring of existence, which can certainly happen as a social gathering.

Beltane, associated with Venus, is about honoring the Goddess. God is often presented by religious leaders as a vague, abstract concept (this is a distortion). The Goddess is tangible, able to be depicted and described, connected to the Earth, and is in essence female. So celebrate and indulge the beauty of femaleness in any form you like. Invite her to be there as an equal collaborator. One thing about the Goddess that I’ve noticed is that when you call on her with love and passion in your heart and for that matter your pelvis, she shows up.

At Beltane the time-honored theme is sex. It is literally the celebration of the joining of yin and yang. I describe that in this article about the ancient Druid site Avebury Henge, someplace to get yourself to if you’re ever in London — it’s only about a one-hour trip. Ritual is organic, though if you were raised Christian you may encounter some negativity (fear, guilt) if you experiment with it. There is a lot of negative programming from Christian patriarchy, and I suspect it’s in all of our DNA; but that, we can reprogram. So don’t let it stop you.

What would differentiate ritual sex from any other sex? Well, depending on your preference, it would be intention, awareness or both. Intention is a useful thing to bring to any ritual. At Beltane, the ritual is about consciously raising erotic energy that would manifest in your life as abundance.

The idea is, find someone who is willing and willing to share the idea, and share a conscious erotic exchange to call up the power of the Earth and our love for the Earth. Tell me, do you really love the planet you live on? I mean the planet itself, the thing your house or apartment sits on? Lovely as it sounds, celebrating erotic energy is one way to do this because we are celebrating the core nature of creation, on our planet. If you give it an honest try, I would take a guess that you can find someone willing to do this, though of course you would have to take a little chance and ask. One of the themes of Beltane is sex with people you’re not officially coupled to; or with whom you are not necessarily that familiar. Your partner, if you have one, will suit fine; but if not, remember that the point is not to have a celebration of lifelong specialness, but rather to honor your inherent biology, humanity and the polarities of nature; of honoring the Earth and the Goddess that support our existence.

Green Man Rebirth by Julia Gomez.

There are other Beltane traditions, like dancing the Maypole. This dance is about weaving a pattern of life in the community. I don’t think they sell Maypoles at Wal-Mart, but you can apply this in some fashion. Dressing up trees in ribbons is another fun tradition, described vividly in the Loreena McKennitt song The Mummer’s Dance. This one is fabulous to put you in the mood for Beltane. Here is another very nice version, apparently the official video with sequences of some positively stunning miming (mummers) and visuals of some ecstatic musicians at work. Actually, I’ve got tears running down my face watching this one.

While we’re on a roll, here is a live version not to miss.

If solo is your preference or your only option, that will work just fine, though I suggest you focus with extraordinary sincerity. Set the space and time consciously. Reward yourself for consciously choosing to improve your life in an organic way. Figure out a way to explore the dualism of yin and yang, of male and female, within yourself. The celebration is about honoring how life on Earth, biological life, is supported by this dualism like the poles of a battery. What we’re doing in any form of this ritual is recharging the energy between the poles. Basically, however you go about it, the idea is that holding and celebrating an erotic charge is the power that we use to manifest our survival, our happiness and a certain ease of existence.

This is not a convenience we can buy. It’s something we need to celebrate with our hearts, our souls and most of all, our bodies. Raise the energy. Don’t fall for the fear. Give it a voice, but remember it’s just one voice. Set aside the aches, pains and gripes your body may be creaking about, and dip into the feelings of the Earth and the waters of life.

Peace & passion,
Eric Francis

Himiko: A messenger from the dawn of time

It measures 55,000 light years across and is nearly 13 billion light years away from Earth. But the most interesting bit about this recently discovered blob of matter is its birth date: Just 800 million years after the Big Bang. Or the presumed Big Bang, anyway — which is the best current theory about the creation of the universe we live in. That’s estimated at about 13.7 billion years ago, give or take a few million years; so it’s a blob from way back at the beginning.

This image of the Himiko object is a composite and in false color. Credit: M. Ouchi.

The object was discovered by Japanese researchers at the Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii and announced recently by the Carnegie Institute for Science. It is what’s known as an extended Lyman-Alpha blob, a mass of gasses that may be an early stage in galaxy formation. And it’s a rather big deal, because it can reveal something about the early composition of the cosmos.

“I am very surprised by this discovery,” lead author Masami Ouchi said in the Carnegie Institute’s announcement. “I have never imagined that such a large object could exist at this early stage of the universe’s history. According to the concordance model of Big Bang cosmology, small objects form first and then merge to produce larger systems. This blob had a size of typical present-day galaxies when the age of the universe was about 800 million years old, only 6% of the age of today’s universe!”

Ouchi, a Fellow at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution, was at the head of a team of Japanese, American and British astronomers who made the discovery.

The object was also given a name by the discovering team: Himiko, a reference to an ancient and possibly mythological shaman queen from third-century Japan.

Six years of galaxy hunting aboard Galex

If April 22 is Earth Day, there’s a case to be made for declaring April 28 Galaxy Day. That was the date in 2003 when NASA launched its Galaxy Evolution Explorer. In the six years since then, this space-based, ultraviolet telescope has cataloged more than 500 million objects, some of them nearly 10 billion years old — not that long after the Big Bang.

Galaxy Evolution Explorer. Image Credit: NASA/JPL.

What does it show us? Details on the shape and size, brightness and distance of galaxies like M33, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory website. In astronomical terms, M33 is a near neighbor, only 2.9 million light years away. Located in the constellation Triangulum, it is part of the Local Group of galaxies, though it’s small compared to its neighbor, Andromeda.

Not every one of those half-billion objects sighted is a galaxy, of course. The Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex, for short) has also sighted huge numbers of other space phenomena, including some striking nebulae. A downloadable image of NGC3242, a nebula commonly called Jupiter’s Ghost, is available at the Galex web site, along with many other beautiful space images.

As it so happens, you don’t need an orbiting ultraviolet-spectrum telescope to see NGC3242; it’s one of the more easily visible objects in space for home telescopes, according to the Skyhound website.

Coincidentally, there is also an Internet-based science fiction show called “Jupiter’s Ghost” that, according to its Facebook page, is about “a group of seven scientists and military personnel who are sent to discover the source of a mysterious, deep-space transmission.”

Indian  Astrologers urged to resist commercialization

Therambil Ramakrishnan, the former speaker of the Legislative Assembly in India’s state of Kerala, urged astrologers to ensure the ancient science “was understandable and transparent to common man” during an address to the 37th state annual day celebrations of the Kerala Jyothisha Parishath, an institute of astrological studies, the news site ExpressBuzz.comreported.

Nedumudi Venu.

The article cited Ramakrishnan as stressing on Sunday, April 26, that “the scientific side of astrology is not yet clearly elaborated to the common man. He said further clarification of this ancient science is essential for making it more popular and useful to common man.”

He was joined by actor Nedumudi Venu, who urged listeners to “protect astrology from undue commercialization.”

According to, Venu said “astrology has become a money spinner at present with the entry of persons without proper knowledge in the subject with a view to making money and exploiting people.”

In the West, astrology is practically traded as a commodity. There are differing views of whether it’s ethical to charge for astrological services. For example, the Rosicrucians say that all astrology should be free, so that astrologers can help struggling humanity. This is not always practical, given that it takes well over a decade of study and practice to become a seasoned astrologer and be able to work the finer details of the art.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 1, 2009, #764 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Burn your confidence efficiently. Too hot and you will run out mid-flight. Not hot enough and you will not get this phase of your life off the ground. It may be the emotional state of someone close to you that is currently having a chilling effect on your boldness; I suggest you offer a measure of empathy to a partner or loved one who is going through a transition similar to what you went through about a week ago. The emphasis of your life is gradually being taken off of one-on-one partnering and is being placed within a much wider context. Group dynamics are at play in your life, within which you are being invited to participate as a creator and not just a player. The rules have changed since you were young. You may not be able to put them into words, but at least they are easier to understand now.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
It can be sickening how much of what we call life is a game of appearances; of people striving to establish their identity and supremacy for their own sake. You don’t seem to be up to this; your consciousness has been and remains internally fixated, as if you’re trying to establish your existence within the context of your own awareness. Don’t work so hard at it. Venus remains in Aries, which is something of a blind spot for you. She is making a square to Pluto, which will draw you into yourself in a somewhat obsessive way. The result might feel like needing to search inwardly for something that is right there but which is not quite visible or available to your emotional senses. Be gentle to yourself. The mystery of who you are is less like a riddle and more like a painting in progress: one stroke at a time.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
Mercury is about to make a brief visit to your sign, turn retrograde and disappear back into Taurus. This is perfect space weather for reconciling the ongoing challenge of how you feel inside versus how you present yourself to the world. Once we figure out that these two environments are different, the first and generally most daunting project is learning how not to feel like a phony. I am beginning to notice that a good portion of the population struggles with this feeling often enough that it warrants special care. You have the opportunity to connect to something about yourself that is inherently, unquestionably real. The catch is that when we arrive there, we tend to see everything that we thought we were as a kind of charade. The gift is what we gain by gently giving up that perception.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
The cards in the deck keep getting shuffled, but it’s not a random affair. Each time you disengage from an agreement, you have the opportunity to make a more conscious one. You can see how many assumptions you’re making about what you think and what other people think. Raising awareness and making conscious agreements are the bass and treble lines of this particular song. I would strongly suggest not going on a campaign of solving every interpersonal communications glitch or off-balance agreement that you discover. A solution is on its way that will shift the level of the discussion; problems you did not know existed will resolve themselves, and the ones you were the most concerned about will yield to the simpler equations of a higher level of thought. For now, focus on the agreements you make in the present.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Sometimes when we take leadership in a situation, something dark and shadowy bubbles to the surface. You know those moments when you get home and obsess over something you said at a party — something that it’s doubtful that anyone will remember, but which makes you feel like a total ass to think about? What you may be feeling goes deeper than this: you are indeed in a position where you must assert yourself, and this may stir up some pretty deep doubts about how you relate to others. I suggest you let them flow through you, and watch how easily they can disappear if you don’t fight with them. The people in your environment are extremely grateful that you’re as bold as you are. You remain your own harshest critic. For more accurate information, consult the people around you.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
The Taurus Sun is doing more to lift your spirits than nearly any transit this year; you have been so focused on necessities that you have not had time to think of the possibilities. However, you may find the greatest potential in doing that which is most necessary. You will have, in the next week or so, a few clues about how you can make this work for you and for everyone else. What happens is only a sample, example or a test run, though you will learn enough to remove some flaws from your thought process and the delivery of your idea in a professional context. If things seem to backslide, nothing is being taken away; rather, you are getting a chance to refine and reconsider. Therefore pay careful attention during this experimental phase, because by next month the data will be crucial.

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
Few forces rival that of human emotion; hurricanes come near. Therefore, I suggest that you respect the power of nature and allow the elements to do their work. The planets suggest that you need grounding in a relationship, and grounding translates to aligning certain practical realities with certain other spiritual realities. The situation has deep roots and there would appear to be a struggle over what guides the way to the future: past patterns, or the quest to reinvent and evolve those patterns. Someone close to you is feeling a quality of inner movement that is more natural for you. I suggest you do your part to keep the conversation going. Someone close to you may lack words where clearly you do not. The thing you might be lacking is the drive to speak up for what you need, feel or believe.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
You’re approaching a project with new enthusiasm. I suggest you remember that in pursuing any goal you need a balance of work and play; of art and craft; of balancing your own needs against those of the situation. You are in an interesting point of growth where you’re finally learning to do things the easy way rather than choosing one of several other possibilities. If you encounter resistance, bear in mind that it might be inner in nature rather than a struggle with someone around you. You may also be inclined to blame someone for backing out of a situation, dragging their feet or pretending to be thick headed, when everyone knows full well what the basic facts are and what is going on. If you listen and give their ideas sufficient time to reveal themselves, an important point of truth will emerge when you least expected it — and this information will facilitate matters significantly.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
Freedom may be a word for nothing left to lose. Yet there does seem to be plenty at stake, and you are hungry for your independence. Be honest with yourself that there is a price to pay for originality. The more you are willing to give up in order to have your freedom of mind, the less you will have to give up. The more willing you are to stand in your ideas like they are your home, the more others will take your example and be reminded that it is possible for them to do the same thing. It would be healthy for everyone around you to embrace the possibility that we are not trapped in the past. Once that thought occurs to anyone, it becomes much more natural to embrace the potential of the future. And it has very much been occurring to you lately.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
You have more options than you believe. Because so much is important to you, you’re experiencing a phenomenon of this leading to a narrow sense of potential; few outcomes could actually cover as many points as seem necessary. But you don’t need many possibilities, outcomes or directions of movement; you need the one that works for you. I suggest you focus on that. Part of why you have so many options is so that it’s possible to eliminate the ones that are not what you want. I would propose that each time you subtract something from your agenda that does not match up with your values, you declare a minor victory and go back to your elimination process. This is not reducing your potential for freedom; rather, it’s pointing you directly toward it.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Focus less on the details and more on the wide vision. If your mind keeps coming up with reasons why things don’t work, persist in envisioning what would work. You can do this, but only if you get off of a clogged frequency and onto a more spacious one. Part of what you seem to be struggling with is getting a real exchange going. One way out is to focus less on circulating energy, and less on trying to draw upon the resources of others, and more on being who you are. That is a quality that is subtler than it is bold. You are exploring unfamiliar psychological territory, so one thing you may experiment with is imagining how that feels to others. As you guide yourself into a measure of authentic ease with the unknown, others who are developing the same sensibility will gradually be drawn to you.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
Once again I would remind you how much is developing out of sight, and in a sense, out of mind. Meanwhile, look for seemingly small signs of what is invisible as it manifests in your awareness. Explore the idea that all that exists is what you allow into your consciousness; this will encourage you to be open minded and, more to the point, cultivate the energy of continuing to open rather than thinking you are already open enough. If you get stuck, I suggest you look for anything you are seeking in the world within yourself: success or the feeling of success; love or someone to love; a man; a woman; something to say; a feeling; an idea; a place to be. What becomes real in you becomes real to you.

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