Altar dedicated to the Crone Goddess/Bone Mother at Susan Rossi's house,
(Crone felted by Jude Lally) November 2019
My husband and I were out driving in Sweden last week, (in the Nynäshamn area south of Stockholm) when a rather alarming destination appeared on Google Maps: Ragnarök! Is this for real?! Who lives there?! We decided to give Ragnarök a miss and keep on driving...
This is an article about the Crone tying a Cosmic Knot and a Swedish tradition of casting out the Christmas tree with pomp and ceremony! However, I will digress for a moment because an astrologer colleague shared a crucial piece of information with me! Please bear with me and pay close attention:
The cultures of Old (pre-Christian) Europe viewed the period of Twelve Nights or Twelvetide as a time of danger. The Old Year was dying and there was a time of risk and reversal before the New Year arrived and solidified. In most countries this period ends with Epiphany (Trettondagen Jul in Swedish, literally the thirteenth day of Christmas) but Sweden adds another event to this calendar: Tjugondagen Knut, the 20th day, the Day of the Knot!
My astrologer colleague Susan Rossi told me that she felt some cosmic anxiety about an upcoming eclipse, scheduled in the days leading up to the "Tying of the Knot". I asked her to give me a brief update on the astrological configuration for the next few days. Her full-length contribution (a small guest blog really!) appears at the bottom of this blog. For now I will lift out the key information:
On Friday January 10th, 2020, a Lunar Eclipse will occur.
Eclipses interrupt and break patterns. This way they open up cosmic and global pathways for resetting energy.
“This particular eclipse feels very huge – like a destiny moment. We have to choose and commit!”
Pluto (who represents the underworld and the crucible for processes of death and rebirth) reaches conjunction with Saturn (who represents the Old King or Old Order). This indicates a dismemberment, (deconstruction, going to pieces!), of old traditions/boundaries/conventions and the social order.
At this time of Great Danger we human beings face a Great Opportunity: we can create positive changes and structures (dismantling and reducing what no longer sustains us), or we can choose ego and conflict, personal gain and warfare. –What will we choose? Which outcomes will we power by feeding them our time, attention and energy?
The Sunbearer, a petroglyph in Norrköping, Sweden
The first time I celebrated Christmas in Sweden (when I was 19 years old), I was surprised (and charmed) to hear that there is a specific day and ritual for “plundering” and removing the Christmas tree. Traditionally this happens on January 13th, the Day of Knut.
The traditional explanation is (the source for the following information is Nordiska Museet , the Nordic Museum, in Stockholm):
January 13th is exactly 20 days after Christmas and that is what the title of this event means: Tjugondag translates as “Twentieth Day”. The expression is: "På tjugondag Knut körs julen ut!": “On the twentieth day Christmas is driven out!”
Knutdagen, the Day of Knut, is said to have got its name for the Danish duke Knut Lavard (1096 – 1131). He was murdered just outside Ringstedt in Denmark, on the 7th of January in the year 1131, by his cousin Magnus. Magnus viewed Knut as a rival, well-positioned to rise to power as the successor of King Nils (the father of Magnus). Knut was canonized and declared a saint near the end of the 17th century. The Christmas period was extended by one week and the week of Knut now lasted from the 7th to the 13th of January.
A new (or ancient?!) tradition arrives on the scene. The researcher Olof Rudbeck Senior (1630 – 1702) is the first person to describe a, so called "gästabudskrig" (or war on guests/war on hospitality) where the Christmas guests were symbolically driven out of the house and life returned to normal.
In the 18th century we find the first mention of a related festival, the so called “julgransplundring” or plundering of the Christmas tree, where it is stripped of all its decorations. Here we need to bear in mind that in times past most of those decorations were homemade and edible (gingerbread people, oranges, candy etc.), not the plastic “rainbow unicorns” we find in the shops today. Today Swedish people so use those same baubles to decorates their trees, but the children still get candy on the day that the tree is thrown out.
As an aside: did you know that there is a dedicated day of the week for children to eat candy in Sweden? On Saturdays they demand their “Lördagsgodis” (Saturday sweets) and the shops will advertise their pick-and-mix section accordingly. “Rea pa Lördagsgodis!” (Saturday Sweets at discounted prices!) However, this tradition was created in the 1950s to limit the eating of sweets (and by extension reduce plaque and cavities) to only one day a week. My (Swedish) husband had an even better personal strategy for improving dental health: he unfailingly collected his Saturday Sweets but added them to his personal collection without actually eating them. Meaning that he acquired an impressive mountain of sweets (which his mother threw out one day, when he was old enough not to be upset about it).
Tjugonday Knut is celebrated only in Sweden, Norway and Finland. In most other countries Christmas is considered well and truly over by then (though I do observe that many people now stretch the Christmas atmosphere in the “other direction” by putting up their Christmas tree some time in November!)
Magical pile of stones by the Ekenberg petroglyph site in Norrköping, Sweden
I must say that I find the name Knut rather suspicious:
Knut (Norwegian and Swedish), Knud (Danish), or Knútur (Icelandic) is a Scandinavian, German, and Dutch first name, of which the anglicised form is Cnut or Canute. ... The name is derived from the Old Norse Knútr meaning "knot".
It brings to mind the much older Scandinavian tradition of the “Granny Knot”. I highly recommend the following article by Kirsten Brunsgaard Clausen:
I found her thought-provoking article when the spirits sent me on a mission to figure out who the Scandinavian equivalent of the Celtic Cailleach is:
“Frost has nipped off the head of all living things. Finally winter! Everything sleeps – from the tiny insect to the big bear. Skeletons of trees stretch out their branches, black and bare. Gray are the heavy clouds, white the frozen ground. Silence. Death … then suddenly – a blood-curdling shriekcuts through the air. Immediately the wind throws back an howling answer. A moment later earth and sky raise a roar together. A tumult of dry leaves and frozen plastic bags whirl round in the storm. People who lose their footing are swept aside. Snowflakes whip in the faces like nails of glass. Now She rules: "the Kælling"! Now is Her time – Her playtime. On the backs of foaming wolves and ragged boars She rides forward 3. She is the Bone-Mother, the age-old Wise One. Wild and playful.”
Brunsgaard Clausen explains that the Kärring will reign from “Hel’s Eve” (Hellemisse, All Saints, Samhain) to Disa Dag (Kyndelmisse, Candlemas, the feast day of St Brigit). She works the miraculous transformation from death to life, from old to new. (Christianity calls it resurrection). This is Death birthing New Life, the most crucial (and most dangerous) part of the greater Cycle of Life.
Let me quote Brunsgaard Clausen one more time:
This role makes Her the most indispensable link in the chain. And to be precise: She is the very lock. She will link old death to new life. When death cuts the thread, Her steady hands will tie the ends together again in a solid knot. And for this operation She will use a Granny Knot, a “Kællinge-knude”! A knot that will never either loosen, nor slide up; a knot impossible to undo when first tightened.
Her final task is done! Now Brigit´s Day is dawning (Candlemas). In Old Danish Candlemas is called ´Kjær-/Kjør-mes Dag (Day) and Kjørmes Knud. A well-known song goes “Candlemas binds its knot hard and with strong determination” (Kyndelmisse slår sin knude, overmåde hvas og hård). “Knud/Knut (Knot) whips out Christmas”, the Danish children used to sing. (Knud, pisker julen ud!)
Cosmic Crocodile Smile In Ice, Sweden, 2020
This brings us right back to Knut Day, of course! Scheduled on January 13th on the Swedish calendar. Many places in Sweden had old pagan traditions linked to this day. Children (especially) would dress up in costumes and wear masks. They would go from door to door carrying a male doll made of straw, the Knut’s Gubbe (Old Man Knut or Old Man Knot, depending on how you choose to translate it). The idea is to be invited in for treats and a drink but stay in role without your everyday identity being reveiled. Dolls of straw made to resemble old women (the so called Gumma or Crone) were carried around as well and pose a direct link to the Grandma Goddess tying her cosmic knot.
I agree with Brunsgaard Clausen that a much older, pre-Christian festival lurks behind the feast day of a Christian saint (as is unfailingly the case: for more see my future book about the pre-Christian spirituality of The Netherlands!)
If you have not heard of this festival before I invite you to consider celebrating the Day of the (Granny) Knot (or alternatively the Day of Knut) and to honour one of the most ancient goddesses of Old Europe by giving her (back) a place on our calendar!
And if you are skilled in shamanic or magical workings please note that this period of twenty days (more commonly Yuletide is viewed as a window lasting twelve days, a time of risk and reversal) poses a window of opportunity for powerful magical work!
Susan Rossi is an amazing astrologer available for private consultations. You can contact her through: https://openchannelastrology.com/
Below is her guest piece on the lunar eclipse in full:
Lunar eclipse at 20 Capricorn -10 Jan. 2020
Saturn conjunct Pluto at 23 Capricorn – 12 Jan. 2020
Capricorn stellium: Saturn, Pluto, Ceres, Mercury combust the Sun, North Node Destiny point conjunct Jupiter.
It feels very huge – like a destiny moment. We have to choose and commit.
2020 is off to a powerful start, following on the heels of the 25-26 December solar eclipse at 4 Capricorn. Capricorn, the sign of the King and cultural/social power structures, is home to a lunar eclipse on Friday 10 January, within 2 degrees of the exact Saturn – Pluto conjunction at 22 Capricorn. Eclipses interrupt and break patterns and open up a pathway for resetting energies. Pluto’s underworld cauldron is the crucible for transformational death and rebirth. Saturn, strong in this place because of its Capricorn rulership, is the Old King, who speaks of boundaries, understanding our responsibilities and limits, tradition and conventionality, structure and order. When these two meet in conjunction generationally every 30 or so years, society and its institutions morph. When Saturn and Pluto met in opposition in 2001, our perceptions of home, homeland, security and terror changed in the wake of the September 11th attacks in the U.S. We are seeing these issues amplified as they play out now through Brexit, issues around acceptance of “foreigners,” closing of borders and rising nationalism and isolationism in many countries. We are also engaging in cultural debate around eroding personal privacy, some of which was surrendered in exchange for a perceived increase in safety from terrorism. So interesting that cyber spying and cyber-attacks are now prominent terror techniques, sometimes sponsored by governments!
We are seeing the very ground of the structures we have taken for granted shift under our feet. Since Capricorn is an Earth sign, this seems appropriate! And the Earth patterns we have thought of as unchangeable, like weather and polar ice caps, are rapidly shifting in ways we couldn’t have imagined 10 or 15 years ago. Would we ever have imagined Australia burning and so much devastation and loss of life among all our animal, plant and insect kin? Notre Dame, a symbol of Catholicism for 800 years, also burned and may not be recovered. Interesting to think about: the last time that Saturn and Pluto met in Capricorn, 1518, the Protestant Reformation had just started, months after Martin Luther nailed his Theses demanding reforms of the Catholic Church, a world power, on a church door. (https://www.timelineastrology.com/saturn-pluto-conjunction.html )
The pressure of the build-up to these astrological events has been intense. Adding to that intensity, there are a total of 7 planets and points in Capricorn at the time of the eclipse and the conjunction, including the North Node destiny point. The Cosmos is calling our attention to coming changes in social and cultural structures, factory farming, food and how we nourish ourselves, among many other issues. Cosmic energy is asking us where we want to go – do we want to keep on going as we are? This is a moment of potential, of possibility. We are being shown that Big change is happening and asked to consider how we want to focus and direct these coming changes. Where we “spend” our energy is the direction in which the changes will go. At this strongly potent time, feed energy to the seeds you want to nourish, grow and bear fruit. The societal changes can easily go in any direction, depending on how they are fed, so it is up to us to do the work to support what we love and cherish in our world and to cut back what is out of control or no longer sustains us. Choose and commit to energetic and physical action. The Crone, the Bone Mother, will help us in our work. If we ask, she will take what needs to die to make way for the new that is coming in. If we ask, she will take the energy of our offerings and feed what we love and cherish. She will tie our prayers into the Knot of the new pattern she is weaving. - Susan Rossi
Imelda Almqvist, 9 January 2020
Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Sacred Art, Seiðr and the ancestral wisdom teachings of Northern Europe. Her first book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016 and her second book Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism) was published in March 2019. Imelda has presented her work on the Shamanism Global Summit and as a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.
Imelda divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her third book “Medicine of the Imagination: Dwelling in Possibility” will be published on October 30th in 2020. Imelda is currently working on her fourth book, about the pre-Christian spirituality of The Netherlands. In 2019 Imelda appeared on a Mystic Britain TV programme filmed for The Smithsonian Channel, talking about Mesolithic site Star Carr and arctic deer shamanism, (and modelling a Stone Age antlered headdress!)
Imelda dreams of being a full-time forest witch!