from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 28 January 2011

facing both ways: abellio and boa

Janus (Abellio & Boa?) from Boa Island

As we move towards the end of January I have been thinking of Janus, the Roman god who lends his name to this month. He's a god of thresholds, doorways, beginnings; and, having two faces, also of endings. He looks towards both what might be and what has been. He guards the past and the future, the inner and the outer worlds and the threshold between them. 

If we take the archetypalist's view that external gods represent inner psychological constellations of energy and processes, Janus as January is associated with Saturn, symbolised by lead (which was a necessary component of the alchemical process of transformation – again, seen as an inner process, making one's dross into gold, rather than the crude more usual external interpretations). He is also associated with time, and with timing.

I've been reflecting on what this might mean in terms of my own life: the opportunity to look at the patterns that run me, at the limitations I impose on myself, on what restricts me and what I cling to; where I'm resisting growth – or forcing it, like hyacinths budding in our kitchen, ahead of their natural time. And I have been looking, too, towards Imbolc (candlemas), that time of new beginnings and snowdrops, here in Britain, soon to arrive; a Celtic fire festival sitting, traditionally, exactly between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, and presided over by Brigid, the fire goddess.

And how different is the quality of energy symbolised by Saturn from that of Uranus – god of change and innovation, uranium-carrier. I say this because the earth has recently moved in its annual cycle around the sun in the heavens from Capricorn, whose 'god' is Saturn/Janus, god of the concrete and the limitations that imposes, god of boundaries, into Aquarius, ruled by Uranus, who doesn't give a toss for boundaries, pulls the rug from under our feet and asks us to question all that we thought we knew, shoves us from behind or drags us by the hair into newer paths... The image that comes is that of the blade of grass that can break through even concrete, and will.

On Boa Island in Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, in the graveyard, is an extraordinary and ancient two-faced figure, nicknamed the Janus figure (poet Seamus Heaney wrote his 'January God' on this sculpture). The two faces may well represent a god and a goddess; the god might be Abellio, the Celtic god of apples, the 'green and growing god'. It's been suggested that the goddess is Boa, usually known as Badh, and associated with war; is it not possible etymologically, however, that she is Boann, the Great Goddess of Irish mythology, she who sprang the Boyne, that great Irish river, and presides over the pool of inspiration, knowledge and wisdom in which the mythic salmon swim under the hazel trees?


In the wet gap of the year,
Daubed with fresh lake mud,
I faltered near his power –
January God.

(Seamus Heaney)

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