Are Pagan Holidays More Than A Seasonal Clock?
Is There an Optimum Time to Work Magick or Divining?
When people who aren’t of a magickal orientation ask me about Witchcraft, I usually tell them that the Craft is an Art, Science, and a Lifestyle. The magickal skeptics never dispute the art aspect or the lifestyle aspect. But they usually object loudly about the science aspect, claiming there is no science associated with witchcraft. I beg to differ.
What follows is one of my discussions about how some of the mystical aspects of the Craft are confirmed by science; and where understanding the science actually benefits the Craft practitioner.
Catholic School Teaching
Fifty plus years ago, when I was a good Catholic kid, the nuns taught us to observe the hours of the Angelus. The local church bells would ring at 6 am, Noon, and 6 pm calling devotees of the Angelus to prayer. At these times we were supposed to stop what we were doing and observe a few minutes of prayer in the form of Three Hail Mary’s. I left the Catholic tradition at age 18 and embraced Wicca in 1977, as a solitary, in my mid 20’s.
In the early 1980s, I was occasionally working in a group circle practice. That’s when I had a unique experience. A Druid priest I knew invited me to an Imbolc circle. The odd thing was he that he wanted us to all get together about 10 pm on Imbolc Eve. A handful of us showed up, and we stayed up all night talking. At about 3:30 am, he took us out to his backyard, in 8″ of snow I might add, to hold the Imbolc circle. He never explained why, when I asked him later about the timing.
In our mosaic of modern pagan traditions, we’ve been told that Sabbats are simply astronomical alignments for which to measure the seasons. Also, mainstream science has told us for years that ancient archeological sites that align with the various astronomical events were merely used for agriculture purposes. The question I asked was. What if there is something more behind these ancient archeological astronomical sites?
The Hunt for Shortwave Noise
In the mid to late 1920s, the Bell Telephone Company was having serious trouble with their shortwave radio links for trans-oceanic phone calls. The short wave radio bands they were using were being plagued by severe static interference at various times of the day and night but never precisely at the same time. Bell Labs hired a young physicist and radio engineer from Oklahoma to study the problem; his name was Karl Guthe Jansky.
Jansky with his 20.5 MHz antenna.
Jansky built large wooden frame structure on which to mount a short wave antenna. He even installed the sizable structure on Model T Ford tires so he could rotate the antenna in a directional search manner. During his study efforts, Jansky made an important observation. He noted that the static peaked four minutes earlier every day. In reality, the radio noise was functioning within a 23 hour 56 minute period, and the static was 4 minutes earlier every day.
After much testing, Jansky realized that the source of the static wasn’t coming from any Earthly source; but rather that it was coming from the sky. The problem of the high levels of radio noise was traced to the Milky Way galaxy passing overhead every 23 hours 56 minutes. This observation by Jansky in 1931 was an exact correspondence to “star-time” or sidereal time. Karl Jansky is considered to be the father of Radio Astronomy.
A Modern Discovery
In 1997, a researcher working for the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory in Palo Alto, CA, made a substantial discovery that related to psychic phenomena. It should be noted that the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory is a descendant of the two and a half decade long military Remote Viewing program, which terminated in 1995.
James Spottiswood is an accomplished and classically trained physicist. Spottiswood decided to use a pragmatic approach to measuring the Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) cognition. He wasn’t interested in what the ESP experiments were measuring. Instead, the physicist focused on examining any compelling correlation. Using data from 1468 published trials, Spottiswood discovered that no matter what the experiments were measuring, specific tests had a significant “effect size” when the local sidereal time was about 13:30 LST or astronomical time.
What the heck is sidereal time or LST?
Mother Earth rotates at a rate of 23 hours 56 minutes; if you are thinking, “Oh yea, 24 hours.” Nope, precisely 23 hours 56 minutes. The reason this is important is that the star constellation that is overhead right now, will be overhead tomorrow four minutes earlier, and an additional four minutes earlier the day after that. After seven days, that same constellation will be overhead 28 minutes earlier than today.
Before I go any further I must state for the record, none of what I’m going to talk about going forward has anything to do with classic Astrology or Planetary hours! Nothing what so ever!
OK, back to Dr. Spottiswood. He discovered that within 30 minutes either side of 13:30 LST, the “effect size” was four times baseline. In other words, the ESP “effect size” was about 450%. He further observed that within an hour either way of 13:30 LST there ESP “effect size” doubled.
What does this mean? Within the two hours centered on 13:30 LST, there is a 200% to 450% increase in the ESP effect size.
Why should this concern us as Craft practitioners? Because this potentially opens up a greater understanding of the rites we observe and the practices we embrace.
Basic Magickal theory says, we the Talking self, must quiet ourselves to touch our divine spark or Younger Self. Through the Younger Self, we communicate our intentions to the Higher Self in terms of magickal workings. Likewise, if we learn to quiet our Talking Self meditatively, it is possible to garner vast knowledge and wisdom from the higher consciousness or Higher Self.
As a teacher, I have stopped teaching spell casting to beginners. For what I discovered 20 years ago, informed me that deep meditation and contemplativeness is the key to excellent magickal and divining practice. The better the connectivity to your non-verbal younger self results in a better connection to the higher self.
I already know some of you are thinking, “My magick works any time I want it too.” Of course, it does. But what if you want to turbo-charge your magickal practice or have a very high yield divining session for some particular reason? Wouldn’t you like to have a 200% to 450% boost?
So let’s get back to the 13:30 effect. Dr. Spottiswood being a traditionally trained scientist, had to consider the possibility that these preliminary numbers were a fluke. So he decided to start over again and test his findings, in effect, he conducted a validation test. He collected another 1015 trials from a range of ESP experiments. Still, the peak magnitude of his second test series confirmed the same time results; the two-hour window centered on 13:30 LST boosted metaphysical effects.
He would later tell science journal reporter, “There’s a 24-hour correlation…Don’t ask me what it is, but it’s real.” Suddenly the story was out in the media, that ESP now had a “measurable effect” and there was traditional mainstream science to back it up. The problem was that most mainstream media at the time just didn’t “get it.” All the news reports I read after the story hit the wire news services; quickly figured out that the Milky Way Galaxy was not overhead or high in the sky. The collective media wisdom at the time was that there had to be something like the galaxy overhead beaming down some fantastic, enchantment that imbues us humans with increased ESP powers.
Nope, the galaxy was on the horizon, nothing was overhead except the constellation Virgo. Everybody just blew it off because there wasn’t a simple and obvious causality. Of course, there were some outlandish theories that I will not discuss. In any case, the news cycle faded quickly on this story. SO WHAT was the cause? This was the big question.
In late 1998, I had been living and studying in a Buddhist Monastery. One of my monastic brothers was an amateur optical astronomer, and I am an amateur radio astronomer. One night after discussing Spottiswood’s discovery, we sat down with our laptop astronomical calculators and handheld Planispheres and started seriously looking at the sky.
After many hours of analysis, we came to two conclusions.
First – The arms of the galaxy were unmistakably on the horizon and not overhead.
Second – All the high-intensity radio noise that Karl Jansky discovered when the galaxy was overhead was more or less absent or minimal during the two-hour window of the 13:30 “ESP effect.”
With this realization, my monk friend remarked, “The 13:30 effect is not about some celestial body imbuing some psychic ability, but rather, it’s about the absence of radio frequency noise from the galaxy. It’s all about THE QUIET!”
Now I hear some witch folks saying. But this consciousness stuff is all ethereal and shouldn’t be affected by radio noise from the galaxy.” I agree with that notion! The “part of us” that is spiritually connected to all living things every-where and every-when in the multiverse shouldn’t be affected by high levels of electromagnetic radio noise from the galaxy.
But also consider for a moment that we are also biological creatures with senses and electrical impulses that meander within our brains and course throughout our bodies. It’s this physical, electrical aspect of our bodies that it profoundly affected by the electromagnetic radio noise from the galaxy.
Think of it like this. It’s no different from going to a noisy disco and trying to meditate. The loud noise and physical activity would be a challenge for even a seasoned monastic or mystic to get centered. In our 13:30 consideration, high radio noise would physically disrupt our ability to hear the gentle whisper of the Great Consciousness.
The Ancient Connection
A few years back on an Ancient Aliens Television episode, host Giorgio A. Tsoukalos was talking about an ancient site in Turkey. At this site, the king who financed the shrine used to crawl into a special freehold or human made cave, in the early morning hours of Winter Solstice. The shaft of this particular cavity would light up with the bright sunlight at sunrise. It is said that the king used that chamber- to receive wisdom from the Gods.
There are other similar stories from different parts of the world.
For example, in the temple at Karnack, Egypt, a specific temple chamber lights up around sunrise. The sculpture in the temple shows the Pharaoh sitting with the Egyptian Gods on either side of him. I did a bit of further research and the Winter Solstice sunrise and early morning period seem to be a significant driving theme with most of these ancient sites.
On several other Ancient Aliens programs, the co-host Andrew Collins made a significant point about the Constellation Cygnus (the Northern Cross) being a big deal with ancient peoples.
I suspected that these ancient sites were more than just agricultural season markers as mainstream science has suggested. What if these sites were designed to mark the window time when 13:30 LST was in effect? In essence, a sky clock of sorts, intended to show ancient people when they could mystically touch the Great Consciousness of the Universe?
The Paper Experiment
Newgrange is a Stone Age (Neolithic) monument in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland, which is 5200 years old (3,200 B.C.). Newgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage-chamber by the winter solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage-chamber at Newgrange, there is an opening called a roof-box. This baffling orifice held a great surprise for those who unearthed it. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the shortest days of the year, around December 21st, the winter solstice. At dawn, from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber.
As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9 am. The accuracy of Newgrange as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.
In my experiment, I looked up the latitude and longitude of the site and the local time reference.
Guess what? The two hours, of the 13:30 LST effect window would occur between 7 am, and 9 am local time. If one were to celebrate a mystical ritual starting at 7 am on the three days of Winter Solstice, they would be rewarded with the light up of the chamber effect at the end of their ceremony.
How would they know when to start the ritual? Easy, the rising and setting of certain constellations in the pre-dawn sky! Orion is just setting, and Cygnus is rising. When would they finish the ritual period? At Sunrise!
We in modern times can google LST calculators and compute the proper time for the two hours “LST ESP EFFECT Window” anytime we want to. But our ancient predecessors didn’t have precision clocks, but they did have the sky at night and the rising and setting of various constellations as well as the sun.
Somehow our ancient ancestors knew the secret of the best time of day to do mystical rituals and must have used the night sky like a clock. But some of the best times happen during the daylight hours, so the ancients built astronomical calculators with stone structures all over the world. Some only measure the Winter Solstice. Others display measurements at other times of the day like high noon and sunset at different times of the year. Interestingly some of the times nicely line up with the traditional Catholic Angelus times. Is this another thing the Catholics borrowed from the ancient pagans?
Intrigued I wanted to know if the 13:30 LST effect was related to traditional Pagan Sabbats. So I ran calculations for the city of my residence in Syracuse, NY in the USA.
Sidereal time is dependent most importantly on your longitude. Specific sunrise, high noon, and sunset are mainly reliant on your latitude. The chart of LST window times below is based on sidereal time calculations for Syracuse, NY USA (DMS Long: 76° 9′ 16.1280” W — DMS Lat: 43° 5′ 20.2092.”
Sunrise on 21 Dec Winter Solstice is roughly 13:30 LST locally. Likewise, Sunset on 21 June is approximately 13:30 LST locally.
First, let’s look at the Catholic practice of Angelus, which represents a type of prayers called the “prayer of the devotee.” The devotion was traditionally recited in Roman Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries three times daily: 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm. These prayers being recited daily by the faithful would one instill good discipline, and sooner or later, the daily prayer practice would rotate through a Boost Cycle. Remember, sidereal time is 4 minutes earlier every day. Please note that the peak Boost Time correlates easily with Lammas and Samhain, as well someone saying their prayer 6 am on Yule marks the beginning of a Boost Cycle.
In Witchcraft terms this LST cycle occurs every day, it’s just a little harder to know when the period starts, peaks and ends. But fortunately for modern witches us there are web applications that can calculate LST time in terms of local time very easily. All you really need to know is your local longitude.
Another thing to keep in mind. Many elder witches know that the Sabbats are not only represented by a specific date but also a “seasonal period.” Most craft elders that I’ve discussed this with felt that the generally accepted Sabbat season is roughly seven days before and after a Sabbat, or fifteen day total.
How to figure this stuff out
First and foremost, you must know your local municipality’s longitude and your local time zone. It’s simple, really. Just Google “What longitude is (your town or city)”
For example: What longitude is Los Angeles California
Google returned Lat 34.0522° N, Long 118.2437° W
Then Google for your time zone. Example: What time zone is Los Angeles California
Google returned: Pacific Daylight Time – Time zone in Los Angeles, CA, USA (GMT-7)
The thing you need is the GMT zone in this case (GMT-7)
Then Google a “Sidereal Time Calculator” There are about half a dozen on the web. Most calculators will ask you for your Longitude, your GMT time zone and the calendar day. The calculator will usually compute the LST for the current time. So the Sidereal time displayed most likely won’t be close to the 13:30. At this point simply add or subtract the difference in hours between the sidereal time that the calculator displays, until the sidereal time displayed is about 13:30 or within the 12:30 to 14:40 window. It doesn’t have to be precise.
Practical Magick and Divining
There are witches I’ve taught this magickal time window technique. Some of them told me complaining about the season. “I’m not getting up at 2:30 am in the morning to do this!” Let’s be practical. For day to day practice using the magickal window just isn’t realistic, especially if the LST period is in the overnight bedtime hours or during your work day. You have to be the final decision maker, whether the Magickal working or the Divining effort is important enough to justify the inconvenience of an awkward hour for the mystical working. If it were easy, everyone would be using it!
Bright blessings upon all of you.