“The Best of Them” by Jay Moody, March 2022
“The Best of Them” by Jay Moody, March 2022
A very wise and lovely friend of mine introduced me to Sydney Banks and the Three Principles some time ago. She also recently shared this insightful podcast with me . It is entitled Ep 62-Healing in Addiction Sydney Banks & Mystical Teachings of Sydney Banks.
The Three Principles as taught by Sydney Banks are Mind, Consciousness and Thought and are considered to point to the Truth as found in the core philosophies of all the world’s great religions. Since Banks first uncovered the Three Principles they have been incorporated into psychology, addiction recovery and various esoteric and spiritual practices with the bold claim that All human behaviour and social structures on earth are formed via Mind, Consciousness and Thought.
In this podcast Harold Derbitsky, a former student of Sydney Banks and President of ACT (Advanced Coaches Training) Inc. who specializes in healing from addiction, and mental illness as well as Native American social issues discusses his understanding of the Three Principles with regard to addiction recovery and spirituality among Indigenous peoples.
Derbitsky claims that although the philosophy taught by Sydney Banks is akin to the world’s great religious revelations, Banks himself was “an ordinary guy” who tapped into the truth of universal oneness. This oneness must be discovered by searching inside oneself where the true spirit of God and love reside. Derbitsky explains that even though Banks was the vessel for this knowledge, he insisted each person must do their own work to discover the truth for themselves, and he would never take credit for the success of his students even though they were following his teachings. We each have to find our own way, not just become followers of the Three Principles, because “to follow words makes you a fool.” Each person must embrace the understanding and experience that goes beyond words, because it is inside each of us.
Although Banks’ Three Principles have been largely absorbed into psychology, Derbitsky says Banks was not originally talking about psychology, but was mostly focused on religion and esotericism. Derbitsky rejected modern psychology, choosing instead to embrace indigenous mysticism. He claims Indigenous peoples’ traditions tend to have an understanding of the three principles already. He says that in an Indigenous context we should not use the words “mind, thought and consciousness,” but instead “Spirit, thought and consciousness.” This is an important distinction since “mind” as it is used in the Three Principles refers to a universal mind to which we are all connected. “Mind,” he says is better left to the psychologists, while many Indigenous traditions focus on the nature of Spirit as the unifying factor in the universe. As a traditionalist practitioner myself, this makes sense.
The reason the Three Principles are so effective in curing addiction according to Derbitsky is that addiction has a spiritual nature caused by over thinking. In fact Derbitsky makes the bold assertion that “all problems are caused by over thinking.” People get stuck in cycles and thoughts of self dissatisfaction and criticism. They become addicted, attend rehabilitation to get off the substance only to return to the habit a few months later and end up back in a rehabilitation program once again. This is a pattern that can be seen occurring not just in Indigenous or impoverished communities, but in communities of all persuasions.
This pattern is cured, according to Derbitsky by capturing a feeling inside yourself that is better than alcohol, anger, depression or whatever the addiction may be. Once a person captures that feeling they will return to it instead of the addiction. He says if the best feeling someone knows is cocaine they will just return to cocaine when they need to feel something. It must however be continuously applied in order for it to be maintained. Derbitsky compares it to participating in the Sweat Lodge which purifies the body and spirit of the practitioner, but when people exit the lodge and return to talking the same old talk and participating in the same old activities, they lose that feeling and return to being troubled souls.
I can relate to this statement. Though I have never been truly addicted to any substance I certainly have been known to overindulge in alcohol, especially when the stresses and anxieties of life have worn me down. Similarly, knowing my consumption was unhealthy I would take long breaks from overindulgence only to eventually return to the habit as the craving returned in response to a new or continuing stressor in my daily life. It was when I found a certain stillness, and center in the practice of such esoteric arts as meditation and yoga that I realized I no longer much cared for the intoxicating effects of substances, because it only seem to diminish that peace of mind and spirit. This has affected me to the point that I have come to outgrow enjoying even the presence of drinkers and drinking facilities as they tend to disturb that sense of peace I acquire through my spiritual work.
Derbitsky explains that the “Three Principles” isn’t a new discover, it is just a language to explain the feeling of spiritual truth, and insight which raises your level of consciousness when you go inside and see that truth. He says when clients go into that feeling they don’t become a client, they become a “sharer of energy and minds.” This results in healing and bringing out a person’s unlimited potential.
Going inside, however is only the beginning of the journey, but too many think it’s the end. This causes some people to get “crazy ideas” about spirituality and enlightenment resulting in attitudes or opinions bordering on sectarianism. To curb this problem Derbitsky illustrated four steps to the process.
Hope for a better life
Experiencing the Positive Feeling
Understanding the Process
Conscious Actions to spread the joy the Three Principles bring
Derbitsky says you must start by capturing the feeling for yourself, then you must share it and you will grow more because we all affect everyone around us which affects the world. This last sentiment is another point with which I have especially come to identify. As I began to discover the benefits of the peace and stillness of spirit I have achieved, I found that by sharing it through authenticity and vulnerability with other people who are struggling I was able to help them lift themselves up, and then we both would walk away better for it.
This is a process of making the world better one person at a time starting with ourselves.
Ramone, Johnny (2012) Commando, The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone, New York: Abrams Image
Commando, the posthumously published autobiography of Johnny Ramone is 176 pages of fun and insight into the lifespan of the guitarist from one of the most influential bands in the history of rock and roll music. It’s almost indisputable that the Ramones invented Punk Rock and Johnny makes no bones about that in his autobiography.
Commando is just like a Ramones song, fast paced, fun, furious, sometimes sad, sometimes silly and a bit cynical. It’s full of dozens of photos and images from throughout his life and career. Many of these had never been published before. At the end Johnny rates each Ramones album from best to least best.
Johnny’s early life and upbringing come across just like classic Americana at least until the rebellion kicks in, but that’s probably just as American as any of it. He was born John Cummings in Queens, New York on October 8, 1948. His father was a steamfitter. He loved baseball, the New York Yankees and Mickey Mantle. He played on teams well into high school before the rebelliousness kicked in.
Johnny was raised Irish Catholic and attended Catholic schools as a child until he showed his mother the marks from where the nun had been hitting him. He changed schools and quit attending church, but still considered himself Catholic to the day he died. He voluntarily went to military school during first half of high school, but just as with baseball the rebellious spirit growing inside him brought this to an end and he returned to public school where he was more comfortable.
Johnny originally became interested in rock and roll through the man who changed the records on the juke box at his parents’ bar and would give him the old 45s. Back then he was into Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.
In his late teens he started drinking heavily and getting into fights and vandalism. He was on a bad path to nowhere, and then one day just changed his mind. He quit drinking more than two beers a day and otherwise would just smoke a bit of cannabis and went out and got a union job with the company his father worked for. Eventually he started the Ramones, mostly on a bet with future drummer Tommy because he bragged about how he could play guitar in a successful band.
Johnny’s anger and violence is an early theme in the book. Johnny had a temper and could be easily irritated. By page 10, which is only the second page of Johnny’s actual text, he describes punching his future band mate and singer Joey because he showed up late to leave for the movies. He smacked bassist Dee Dee in the head multiple times while on tour for dawdling at road stops. He also punched former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles in 1988 for talking to his girlfriend.
Johnny confirms one of the many amusing Ramones legend from the early days of the band and how they often had fights on stage over various performance issues. He describes their earliest days in a manner that illustrates a group of poor working class street kids who didn’t have much in the way of diplomatic skills, but a lot of passion. The Ramones certainly were punks. Johnny summed up the Ramones image by saying “The Ramones hinged on aggression, and balanced with the cartoon-like fun that so many seemed to see in us.”[p11]
Johnny mentions that he always felt like people were uncomfortable around him. He later decribes how he liked to irritate his band mates by playing Rush Limbaugh loudly over their tour van’s radio. Johnny was pretty conservative especially for a punk. He loved Ronald Reagan and was instrumental in developing the very American identity that was part of the band’s image. He hated foreign travel, especially in France, but he did enjoy Spain and Italy. He eventually enjoyed touring South America when the band became extremely popular there.
Tensions ran high in the band from the beginning. Johnny seemed exasperated as he expressed that he could not relate to Joey, and called him a pain in the ass and a hippie. Even after retirement when Joey was diagnosed with lymphoma, Johnny says he called Joey to check on him, and the former Ramones singer acted flippant about it, so he didn’t try reaching out again. He would go weeks without speaking to drummer Marky even while on tour and traveling in a cramped van. Looking like a brotherhood was part of the image of the Ramones, but the reality was a little less romantic.
Johnny was serious about the music and the image of the Ramones, but he didn’t take his own fame and legendary status too seriously. That was in large part due to the fact that he didn’t even realize he was such an inspiration to so many bands until he was close to retirement in the early 1990s. He seemed surprised that musicians from bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and the Red Hot Chili Peppers looked up to him. As these then up and coming bands were on the same tours with the Ramones they would come up to him at shows and profess their admiration. At first he was perplexed. Then he was amused.
The Ramones retired 1996, and Johnny was the only member who didn’t go on to doing anything else musically. He couldn’t see playing with any other band than the Ramones. A year later he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He hated how retirement, aging and his illness had softened him up to the point he didn’t even have the energy to be angry anymore. Johnny Ramone, a true punk. The last few pages of Commando become very poignant as Johnny states the likelihood that the he would be dead before it is published. And so it was.
Johnny was good friends with Lisa Marie Presley and almost walked her down the aisle when she married Nicholas Cage, but instead stood beside Cage as the Best Man. And like a true king of rock and roll, the daughter of the late, great Elvis was by his bedside when he died on September 15, 2004. Other friends in attendance included Eddie Vedder, John Frusciante, and Rob Zombie.
Lisa Marie Presley wrote the epilog to Johnny’s autobiography. She described the events around his final hours and his cremation as “very much like an Irish Wake and exactly the way Johnny would have wanted it to be.”
She said he was a good friend, a legend, loyal, “and well … he was grouchy :)”
Commando, The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone is a must read for any fan of the Ramones, punk rock, or rock and roll.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing at the House of Henry Irish Pub in Panama City, FL. I like the place. It’s nice and new, only established in 2019. It has all of the hardwood, stained glass and bric-a-brac I’ve come to expect from a good Irish Pub. They have a full menu and two rooms with separate bars, a dining room and a pub area with a stage. It’s a cool spot and I’m looking forward to playing there often.
After a recent gig Jake, the booking manager met with me in the loft above the pub and we recorded an episode of House of Henry Loft Sessions.
The Washington DC football team announced on Monday that it would be retiring it’s racist mascot causing nation-wide discussion. Yours truly has certainly been well into the fray.
A young lad has sought to question me on my stance and impugn the validity of Native American concerns on this subject. As is a standard practice of mine, if it takes more than a couple paragraphs to make my point online, it goes on the blog. So, here we go.
“Yeah that’s some who are offended, I know some indigenous people who aren’t. Aunt Jemaimahs family begged for the company to not issue a rebranding, apparently syrup is now racist too. I’ve never understood why anyone other than a white guy with a sunburn would be offend of the term “redskin”. OUR skin isn’t red. Who cares.”
It helps to have taken the time to learn the history of that term and Native Affairs in this country. One who has would be less likely to conflate different unrelated issues while repeating sound bites and talking points from conservative media.
It’s not simply “some who are offended.” It’s the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest, largest and most representative Native organization in the country which has advocated for the interests of Indians for nearly a century. It’s the American Indian Movement, Idle No More, countless tribes, and nations and virtually every native activist movement in this country for 50 years who have recognized the ill social affects of caricatures being the dominant representation of native people in media while rich white people make millions of dollars from it, despite what your buddy on the street might think.
It’s not that the r-word is offensive as in it hurts little snowflake feelings. It is literally the Native American equivalent of the N-word. It is a word used historically as a means to dehumanize Indians.
Throughout the 19th century that term was used to designate Natives as wild savages who were only suited to be killed, hunted down like rabid animals. Bounties were paid for “redskins.” Often times scalps were taken as evidence for the number of “redskins” killed to fetch a higher payment. Be assured when someone called us redskins they were not “honoring” us. They were saying we were less than human and just in the fucking way.
Indians are not honored by a dehumanizing term historically used to encourage and promote our genocide. This is a genocide that continues today by definition as per the UN Council on Genocide, and Raphael Lempkin who coined the term. Natives are still fighting for basic rights and amenities as human beings while mostly white millionaires continue to get rich off the legacy of genocide and colonialism, portraying Indians as the things of their fantasies.
This all gets into media representation and how it impacts the quality of Native life. Indians are only about 1% of the US population. Most of those are concentrated in a few states and mostly in remote communities. So, the average American does not have any meaningful interaction with a Native American on a daily basis, much less a native community. These people get the majority of their perceptions of Indians from media and sports. This includes some natives as well who have been acculturated, are often urban and do not interact with a native community.
How Natives are represented in media affects how we are viewed by the majority of the population. How we are viewed by the majority of the population matters when we need our issues to be taken seriously and acted upon in an appropriate manner.
If we are viewed as impish caricatures, savage beasts, or even romanticized relics of a bygone era, we are not seen as real human beings. That affects the socio-political environment which we as 1% of the population are powerless to overcome on our own.
If we’re not viewed accurately as real, modern humans then our tribal sovereignty is not viewed as something to take seriously. Our land rights are at risk, our religious rights are at risk (did you know Indian religions were outlawed until 1978?), our very existence as Indian people is at risk. And when these harmful stereotypes infect our own youth it has been shown to negatively impact their self perception and limit their imagination as to what they’re capable of achieving in life. This has long-term negative implications for individuals as well as for tribes and nations.
There is far more at stake here than simple hurt feelings about the color of our skin.
Today was a good day for Natives.
That racist mascot is finally gone. Of course there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth about losing another flagrant display of their beloved white supremacism. They can’t profit from Native dehumanization anymore and they’re sad. Let’s bask in those tears right now.
More importantly, let’s celebrate our success and reflect on how far we have come since the Era of Termination as fuel for the battles ahead. And let’s remember our allies in this.
Today is a result of half a century of grassroots activism, education, demonstrations and building our own media outlets that created enough non-Indian allies in the country to hurt a market for racism.
We’re not fooled that this was some benevolent act by a newly enlightened class of “elites.” We know it is only because enough avenues of income were obstructed that Dan Snyder was losing the only thing he really cares about, money.
And THIS is the real symbol within this multifaceted victory. The word they used to create a literal market for dead Native bodies no longer makes them money. They can no longer capitalize on our dehumanization like that.
While they whine and say goodbye to the “legacy” of their little racist sportsball club, I wish we could truly say goodbye to the legacy of colonialism and genocide in this country. This is a step in that direction. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Today was a good day.
The Eight-Fold Wheel of the Year is a solar calendar marking the eight seasonal points of the ancient and indigenous western European holiday tradition.
It has always been vital for human survival to live in tune with the seasonal cycle in order to plan ahead and prepare for the various environmental changes that occur over a year. Our lithic ancestors needed to know when berries ripen, when herds migrate or when the snow comes just for basic survival. Along the way certain specific celestial events were noted that marked the beginnings and midpoints of the seasons and these dates were set apart as special. As civilization developed and farming became central to life, celebrations and holidays were created through tradition and the foresight of wise and creative participants. This is such an intrinsic part of our evolutionary heritage that our greatest holidays, those with long histories attached to them still carry these ancient seasonal and astronomical markers.
In the mid 20th century an uncertain group of Euro-traditionalist scholars combined the four-point seasonal holidays of the Germanic Anglo-Saxon tradition with a quite similar though differently organized traditional Celtic holiday calendar to create the Eight-Fold Seasonal Cycle. Though originally combined by neo-pagans to satisfy their need for a holiday cycle and to reclaim the old ways, it corresponds naturally with the holiday cycle already celebrated throughout Western civilization. It serves as a useful toolbox for those desiring to orient themselves with a more naturalistic or even indigenous outlook on life.
There is no “true” beginning or end to the Eight-Fold Seasonal Cycle, and different communities begin their year at different points for cultural and historical reasons of their own. Since I have a strong affinity for the Irish Celtic orientation I would normally begin with Samhain, but for this article I’ll start at at a point that seems like a more natural beginning, Yule.
Each holiday is presented below in brief. Click on the name of each holiday to be taken to a full article describing that day in more detail.
Yule, Dec 21st
A Germanic holiday in its origin, Yule falls at the winter solstice. It’s a time of new beginnings as the midpoint of winter. After two brutal months of winter the days are finally becoming longer once again and there is hope for a new summer just months ahead. It’s a time to celebrate the birth of a new year, and new sun. Yule traditions coupled with traditions from the Roman Saturnalia and transferred into a Christian context have been handed down to us as the modern day Christmas.
Imbolc, Feb 1
Imbolc is an Irish holiday. It’s the first defining evidence of the fulfillment of the promise made at Yule. The young earth is becoming fertile and the young sun has begun to show signs of his virility. This is when seeds that have lain dormant in the earth begin to show the first signs of sprouting. Life is starting to become more active after the hard winter. It is a time for lovers. The symbolism of Imbolc has been adapted into multiple different celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras.
Ostara, March 21st
Ostara falls on the Spring Equinox. At Ostara the Corn Mother is celebrated in her first stirrings of pregnancy. Agriculturally Ostara comes at the end of the Spring sowing season. Flowers are blooming everywhere and the animals are starting their mating dances as pollen wafts through the air. This holiday was wholesale converted, name and all into the Church as Easter and many of its symbolism such as rabbits and colored eggs were adopted along with it.
Beltane, May 1
Beltane is an Irish holiday and is also full of fertility symbolism. As the crops and herds are flourishing and pollinators are active, sexuality is pervasive through Beltane. Ancient customs recall celebrations in which lovers met in the fields, the forests, or along the shores for trysts and escapades. The Maypole with its phallic symbolism was commonly danced at Beltane.
Midsummer, June 21st
The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, with the sun at its strongest, therefore Midsummer represents the triumph of light over darkness. It is the counterpart to Yule, the fulfillment of prophecy. The Solar Hero born at Yule rises to his destiny. He could be King Arthur, Lugh Lamfada or God.
Lugnasadh, Aug 1
Lugnasadh is the first real harvest festival. It means “The Wake of Lugh.” As autumn approaches, summer day’s become noticeably shorter as winter’s grip is only a short way off and the sun begins to die. As a celebration many competitions and public dances are traditional.
Mabon is the autumnal equinox. To some degree Mabon is a time of mourning. The Solar Hero is near death, and the cold grip of winter begins moving in steadily to rule the land. The powers of light and darkness are balanced one final time, allegorically locked in combat and the hero meets his doom.
Samhain, Oct 31st-Nov 1st
Samhain traditionally celebrates the last harvest of the season. It was the highest feast day on the old Celtic calendar and often regarded as the Celtic New Year. It represents the end of the active season and the beginning of the dormant season, the season of death as the solar hero lies slain. As such the date is associated with ghosts and dark themes eventually becoming the modern day Halloween.
As you see, the Solar Wheel follows the annual cycle through the activity of the sun and its relationship with the earth in order to sustain life. The symbolism associated with that has been built into allegories, mythologies and cultures, but at their core lays our genuine evolutionary nature. As natural beings, we are dependent upon this cycle of life, the dance between sun and earth. By living in tune with the seasonal cycle along with other traditions, customs and philosophies which I can only call Indigenist, I think we become more centered and grounded as human beings and more complete. With that completeness we lose a lot of insecurity, and anxiety about the meaning of it all and our place within it. This is just such a thing I think can help restore a bit of sanity to modern humanity.
Easter is perhaps the most significant day on the Western liturgical calendar, celebrated in commemoration of the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion on Good Friday. Many of the symbols and traditions of Easter have their origins in an older, Germanic tradition that is still celebrated to this day by Christians and neopagan revivalists alike, Ostara.
Ostara is traditionally celebrated on March 21, spring equinox as it is the solar compliment to Easter’s lunar reckoning. It is one point on the Eight-Fold Wheel of the Year, and it is regarded as one of the four high holy days in modern Druidry called Alban Eiler: “the Light of the Earth.”
The word Ostara derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word Eostre, the name of an obscure Germanic goddess about whom little is known today. Her name is linguistically related to the word for “east,” giving further credence to the strong solar significance of the holiday. And from this name we also derive the word Easter.
In modern paganism Ostara is regarded as the Festival of the Trees, due to the regrowth of their foliage at this time of year, a strong metaphor for resurrection and rebirth. Agriculturally Ostara comes at the end of the spring sowing season. Flowers are blooming everywhere and the insect population is making a drastic comeback. The animals are beginning to start their mating dances and pollen wafts through the air fertilizing the crops. Colored eggs and rabbits are indicative of this season by virtue of their association with fertility. In such, this holiday is directly associated with the inner Cauldron of Incubation. This is a very inspirational time.
At Ostara the Corn Mother is celebrated in her first stirrings of pregnancy and often symbolically sacrificed as an expectant mother must sacrifice of herself to bare and care for her children. This is a consistent theme amongst many agricultural societies from the Anglo-Saxon John Barley Corn to various Native America manifestations of the Corn Mother.
It’s not all just joy and the pleasures of fertility, however. Ostara also has certain themes of conflict associated with it. As the day that finally signifies the summer’s conquest over winter, the conquest of darkness by light, and allegorically the conquest of evil by the good an d majestic solar hero. And so we see ritual competitive sports and ball games are traditional at this time. Amongst many Western European populations there will be a ritualized and symbolic battle between the seasons, often in the form of a sword dance wherein the participants act out the opposing roles as either teams or one on one.
Ostara may not be Easter, but the two holidays share a common history, symbolism and philosophical character that are significant to the natural cycles of life. The winter has finally ended. There is abundance in life and resources looking forward. The darkness has been conquered.
Today would have been Bob Marley’s 75th birthday if he had lived. Tragically, he died of cancer on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36. Most people know that Bob Marley and the Wailers put reggae on the map, taking it from obscure local Jamaican music and turning it into the international phenomenon it became. But for me, Bob Marley isn’t just another name among the many other ground-breaking musicians of the 1960s and 70s. When we talk about Bob Marley we’re not just talking about music anymore; we’ve crossed into the subject of mysticism and religion. Bob Marley is less like a rock star and more like a biblical messenger.
I grew up in coastal and beach towns, so I always knew who Bob Marley was, but through a lot of my early teens I was more into punk rock and heavy metal. Then in 1993, I was the president of my church youth group at St. Anne’s and we took part in an annual Diocesan Youth Camp Out. This was two nights at an outdoor coastal retreat which brought high school kids together from Catholic churches over the whole Florida Panhandle. The theme that year was “One Love, One Life” and Bob Marley’s hit song was played at all the activities throughout the weekend. The t-shirts had red, green and gold on them. It was a genuine religious experience on a Florida beach with Bob Marley’s message front and center.
I was captivated by how much of Marley’s music was religious in its nature. It may as well be gospel music. Listening to Marley’s lyrics is like listening to a hymn, and that one-drop beat and the rootsy melodies are infectious. It wasn’t a stretch for Marley’s music to become an influential part of my ever-growing spiritual life.
As I grew into my late teens, I became more disillusioned with modern life. I’d had a miserable experience in public school. I came to realized that the Church is full of vipers, but only after I had been bitten. I became aware of the corruption of government. The ongoing and almost unconscious genocide of Native peoples weighed on my mind and my soul. I felt like I had been lied to my whole life, and that everything I thought I knew up to that point was propaganda. I didn’t know who I was. What does any of it even mean? I became angry and a little bit radical. I learned that thinking for myself is an act of rebellion.
I could have gone bad at this point, but I didn’t. Instead this is when Bob Marley’s music became most important to me. It captured my frustration and soothed what it could, and redirected what it couldn’t into a positive fire. This was real rebel music. It was rooted in positivity and righteousness, rather than the negativity found in so much of other rebellious music. Rather than being angry, self-destructive and nihilistic, I learned to be impassioned about injustice, and constructive while invigorating my faith and maintaining a sense of wonder about the world. This is what held me together. The message I learned from Bob Marley and through him from other reggae artists and the Rastafarian movement is something that has continually been a guiding light for me over the years.
It encouraged me to embrace my roots.
It helped me bridge the gap between my indigenous traditions and my orthodoxy.
It helped me understand the significance of my place in the greater movement of history.
It helped me to see each native struggle as another front of the same global struggle for freedom, and sovereignty.
It helped me to understand that I have a role to play in this struggle and how I can fulfill that mission through education, prayer, and service to my people and revitalization of our traditional cultures.
I can’t stress enough how important it was for me that this message of reggae didn’t just want to teach me rules and ethics and tell me to be a good boy, and it didn’t just encourage me to rebel without a cause. The Rastafarian philosophy freely recognized and validated my grievances with the modern world and gave me positive means to deal with negative realities.
So today isn’t just another birthday of another popular musician to me. It is the anniversary of the day a great man came into the world who would have a positive spiritual impact on many disillusioned youth throughout the world for over five decades now. He may have saved my life. While Bob Marley should be remembered for his groundbreaking music, he is also remembered for his role as an emissary of the divine, a messenger for the revolutionary word of God – Jah Rastafari.
Imbolc is an ancient Celtic Fire Festival traditionally celebrated on February 1st and heralds in the beginning of spring. For several hundred years this day has been the feast day of Saint Brigid of Kildare and before that of an Irish goddess by a similar name.
As the first day of spring, Imbolc is placed early in the season because Celtic people recognized that seasons begin upon their incubation rather than at their midpoint as the seasons are generally measured today. Similarly, the feast day itself as with all Celtic fire festivals begins the eve before the actual calendar date. Being a fire festival, Imbolc was marked by bonfires, hearthfires and candles. And as is traditional for the Irish any time of year, Imbolc would be celebrated with a solemn visit to sacred wells, or rivers
By Imbolc, the days have become noticeably longer since midwinter’s darkness as the sun continues to mature in the sky. The young earth is becoming fertile and the young sun begins to show signs of his virility. Seeds that have lain dormant in the earth will soon sprout. Life is becoming more active as the cold winter fades away. The stag begins to regrow his antlers and shall soon be searching for his spring-time mate. This is the day for coming of age.
In its earliest incarnations, Imbolc was a shepherd’s holiday likely called Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk.” At this time of year, the female sheep have often recently given birth and are lactating. Another proposed meaning of the name Imbolc would translate to “in the belly” carrying forward this theme of fertility, mating and pair-bonding.
Though Imbolc is still celebrated continuously in parts of Ireland and Britain, it was also adopted into the neopagan Eightfold Wheel of the Year in the mid twentieth century. In this progression, Imbolc is the first discernible evidence of the fulfillment of that divine promise of Yule, celebrating the returning of light and the fertility of the earth.
Anciently, Imbolc is the feast day of Brigid, patroness of poetry, medicine and metallurgy and celebrates her as the fertile virgin Earth-bride to be mated to the returning sun of spring personified as the youthful Green Man, an archetype of the springtime blooming. His hair and beard are usually represented as leaves and vines. His symbols are horns, vegetation and snakes. Though, the male hero plays an integral role in this relationship, Imbolc is truly in celebration of the Bride. Amongst her many epithets Brigid is referred to as “mistress of fire,” “old lady of the whirling fire,” and selchi shut emyss; “mistress of serpents.” The Catholic saint is portrayed just as strikingly though far less romantically as a bride of Christ.
The serpent is also a symbol of Imbolc. Much like the similar event of Groundhog Day which falls at this same time, the sighting of snakes at this time of year indicates the arrival of spring. Snakes brumate in the winter; a kind of mild hibernation. They return in the spring, making their reappearance a sign of springtime fertility. Snakes have been seen as symbolic of rebirth in many cultures due to the manner in which they slough their skin and are thus each time ‘reborn.’ The sighting of the first serpent of spring is considered a good omen bestowing virile blessings upon the seer. For this reason, the historical celebrations of Imbolc included the pounding of a serpent effigy and the pronouncement: “Today is the day of the Bride. The serpent shall come from his hole. I will not molest the serpent and the serpent will not molest me.”
As an agricultural celebration and the first fertility rite of the year, Imbolc is a time to prepare the fields for the sowing. Traditional celebrations for this time include breaking ground for new crops or blessing the fields, the plows and other farming tools, and offerings were made of milk, honey or mead, and cakes or bread.
Historically, by this time the winter supplies would be dwindling. Few if any fruits or vegetables were available. Wild animals are quite lean in late winter and so were the people having dropped their summer weight as they entered the lean season the Church would eventually institute as the season of Lent. Since wild foods are scarcest and our favorites scarcer still, this time period has historically marked a time of fasting.