Welcoming Back the Light

Amvasya | Dark Moon
Wednesday, 13th January 2021

Loh means light and gives its name to this festival day of welcoming back the light. This is an ancient Indian pagan festival that is celebrated in the North of India. It has echoes in South Indian festivals that occur at the same time. On the other side of India, 1000s of kilometres away in the south on the same day, Bhogi festivals are celebrated, which have identical elements. All these festivals are centred around the lighting of sacred fires.

To befriend, 
& become befriended, by Nature 

Tantrics have aligned to these rituals as a way to both befriend and be befriended by nature. Such so-called pagan celebrations of the rhythms of nature have been dismissed by orthodoxly as primitive and based on superstition. 

Tantra 
is a pagan tradition 
of honouring 
the forces of nature. 

Some of the traditions and festivals became assimilated into the widespread arena of religion while others remain more obscure or only regionally acknowledged.

What may not be apparent to Westerners is that orthodox religion in India is highly organized and deeply discriminatory within a class system that itself strives to keep in place such discriminations.

There are temples in India where only higher classes are admitted, this seems to have gotten even more corrupt with the passage of time. The higher caste priestly orders, have their fingers in politics and economics more than might be known.

Tantra, on the other hand, especially within this Left Hand Path, has been horizontally organised outside of formal institutions and widely inclusive, both of class and gender differences

Western Views 
& the excessive fire of modernity

Until recent times, 
Yoga in India was a male-only tradition.
Western women were allowed
to join practices
because of their money
& their status.

Western women have entered into the yoga arena only within the past century and because of the generous economic offerings they were making to Gurus and their ashrams. It is common in fact still today for higher class priests and teachers to admit Western women into their classes, but refuse Indian women.

A lot of the rituals 
that the male line carries out 
are paradoxically not suitable for women, 
though Western women 
might be the main followers
of the practices.

Fire rituals are most unsuitable for women, they can cause great imbalance to the female bodily chemistry, disturbing the reproductive faculties and menstruation. 

The female chemistry carries an excess of fire in accordance with menstrual rhythms. These rhythms can become agitated and disturbed when working with powerful and unsuitable rituals that involve fire. Rituals are to be understood as powerful harnessing of energies that produce powerful effects. That we live in a very solar oriented society, with excess of light in terms of electricity, already gives an excess of fire to the organism. 

Fire rituals came from a pre-electricity era, it must be remembered. 

Both the modern man and woman suffer from the imbalance of excessive fire and heat in the system. Cooling practices are more called for in this time to balance the solar and lunar forces in both the psychic and physical organism.

Many of the structures of the prevalent Vedic mantras do not include the feminine Matrikas (tones) and unbalance the female constitution, if overly worked with.

It is essential to see 
that the ritual practices 
of the Vedas 
were never meant for women.

They have indeed landed in the hands of organised patriarchy and carry forward great streaks of fascism in the way that the philosophy of the Vedas has been used and manipulated by the higher classes to subjugate and exploit people greatly under the pretexts of religious dictates.

Witches & Pagans
Wisdom of the un-Civilised

Not all Indians actually honour the orthodoxy and the higher priestly classes in the same manner that Westerners often do. Those who are not in the elite know by direct experience how the higher religious classes mix their powers with religion to subjugate and exploit what they – the higher classes – deem as the common and uneducated pagans.

The tribal, 
shamanic & Shakti traditions 
have often been outcast 
from the orthodoxy 
as lesser or uncivilised.

The Tantrics did not arise as a reactionary measure towards the orthodoxy as several popular Western scholars of Indian lore have assumed. The Tantric wisdom predates organised form, and is the natural essence that imbues and developed into organised form. 

Tantra 
is the uncivilised 
and pagan roots 
of all Orthodoxy.

It is like the folk wisdom of the Witches in the West, who were burned by the patriarchal inquisition and replaced their wisdom with codes and structures that go against nature and the laws of compassion.

Northern Talk

There is a saying in Punjab 
that if you see a priest 
first thing after leaving your house 
you should go back home 
and wash yourself of the filth of their presence.

Although Lohri is a festival that is confirmed today to some parts of Northern India, once upon a time this festival was embraced by the whole of the rural people of the North. 

Even Pakistan, when it was still part of India – in relatively recent times – and not a separate state as it is now – It was a place of Tantra that recognised festivals such as Lohri which are now commonly regarded as minor folk festivals that do not enter into the religious mainstream.

Tantra still thrives in an underground form in the North of India, where many of the ancient natural pagan rites are adhered to. In places such as the Punjab this can be seen. Both the external and the underground Tantric practices that are prevalent there, are more in the tradition of shamanism and Nath cults that are not always linked to some of the well known hierarchical Sampradaya orders, but have their own origins and lesser known and secret lineages.

Punjab is a northern region of India infamous for its raw disregard of upper class orthodox elitism. It is also a state in India where 5 rivers converge. The 5 rivers of Punjab correspond to the 5 nadis (energy lines) of the throat centre. Indeed the North Indians are highly vocal and known throughout India to produce the most legendary singers. This is why Lohri is a festival of song and festivity.

Rock your Baby

Lohri in the North is also understood to mean ‘to rock a baby’. Newborns are blessed upon this day. The first Lohri of newborns is a time of great celebration and the reception and giving of blessings. The Hisdray arrive to bless children on this celebratory day.

The Hisdray or Kusray – as they are called in the Northern states – bring blessings to Babies and Newlyweds

Hisdray
are an ancient & mysterious 
cult of eunuchs 
– transvestites, hermaphrodites 
& more recently transexuals –
who have the power of Vaak Siddhi:
the power of blessing or cursing
through speech.

They come to bless upon the day of Lohri to both babies at their first Lohri. The festivities  involve group prayers, games, song, dance and other festivities of Lohri, sweets are made, given and collected, fires are lit and games are played.

Honouring the Guest

What many people commonly do to celebrate the winter solstice is basically done on Lori. Fires are built at sunset and circumambulated. But why is Lohri not celebrated upon the Winter Solstice?

The Solstice is a solemn time of the year’s longest night, a time when the night forces are in full force and honoured by the Tantrics by immersing themselves fully in darkness. 

The Dark 
is deeply tuned into 
around Solstice 
by Tantrics.

When a long staying guest leaves our house. It takes time to acknowledge their absence and come back to a settled state without them there. This is how Tantrics consider Winter Solstice.

Lighting a fire 
on the Winter Solstice 
equals to rejoicing 
for the guest leaving 
while the guest 
is still in your home.

Tantric allow for the guest – darkness – to leave with dignity and mourn their departure. Perhaps the modern denial of the night forces is responsible for lighting fires even before the guest of half the year has departed. In the Tantric view it is ungraceful and ungrateful to see off the dark in such a way. For she has given so much. What she has given exactly is for one to discover for themselves.

The Tantric learns to honour the feminine forces of the dark and lingers and pays respect for a while, as she trails off into the shadows.

Some of the folk games played by children on Lohri reflect this. In one such play of children, the child is painted black and tied with a rope held by his friends, he asks for Lohri (sweets) in a sing sing type of way at the doors of his neighbors. If they do not respond sufficiently the rope that restrains him is loosened by his friends and he enters the house to break things therein!

The symbol 
of the game is explicit, 
the Dark is asking 
for a gift & blessing 
before it can depart 
knowing it has been appreciated, 
& honoured.

The dark gives her gift when she has been honoured. Just like the gift of a child that emerges from the dark womb after a 9 month stretch inside the Mother.

Interestingly, children and newborns are blessed on this day which is believed to carry a great blessing for rising strength.
At the other side of India, in the South, in the same day Bhogi Pandigai is celebrated. It is also a festival of blessing children and lighting fires.

The First Dark Moon

A rarity, 
Lohri occurs this year 
in its original 
Tantric place of power 
upon the Dark Moon.

The first Amvasya (dark Moon), following the winter solstice, sees the time to let go and say farewell to the dark season. It is a time to begin lighting fires for the new uprising guest of expanding days that is upon us as the Moon waxes for the first time in a full round after Solstice. As the Moon rises from the Amvasya she brings with her the season that reflects the sun.

Tantrics work with honour the fire on the ritual day of Lohri. Saying  farewell to the dark and welcoming the light. Nuts and seeds are thrown into the fire with prayers, as a way of releasing the old and welcoming the new.  In some regions, old garments and items that hold old energy are put to the flames of rebirth.

The next day after Lohri is marked as a Makar Sankranti or Maghi Sangrand – this is the beginning of the new calendar month, known as as Maghi in the North, and the month of Tai in the Tamil calendar.

Day of the Crocodile

Sankranti or Sangrand is the first day of the month. Makar or Maghi means crocodile. It represents a new astrological force coming into effect and raising the season to one of light and warmth, under the reflection of the first waxing moon of the light half of the year.

Makar Sankranti is a day that recognises that the coldest day has passed, and the heat is building by the growth of the first Moon-round post winter-solstice. Kites are flown, in many regions, this represents the rising new season. In Gujarat, this is a central custom in the festival which is there called Uttarayan. Kites abound in the skies at this time, though the custom still exists, it has declined in recent decades as the hand of modernity sweeps across ancient customs. In the South, Sankranti Makar corresponds to the festival of Surya or Tai Pongal, many of the ritualistic customs are similar to those of the North, even down to the dishes that are cooked. 

Pongal is widely celebrated by the Tamil people – the Southernmost state of India.

Makar Sankranti traditionally begins with a morning dip at sunrise in a river, even when the temperatures are freezing. This is a symbolic and magical gesture of cooling the body and spirit for the heat of Surya (sun) that is rising with the coming Month. The day of Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of Uttarayanna – this is when the sun enters the 10th zodiac house of Makara.

Makara 
corresponds to 
the western Capricorn sign,
& is symbolised 
by a Crocodile. 

Makar Sankranti indeed derives its name from Makara, the crocodile constellation. The dip in a river in the early Morning on this day that brings with it a new rising astrological cycle is a way of honouring the Crocodile energy. 

The Goddess Ganga (as in the river Ganges) rides upon the crocodile Makara, as does the God Varuna, the deity of the seas. The cooling blessings of the water element are sought as the moon raises the tide for the first time post-solstice at the beginning of the season of building heat. The energies of water and fire come together at this sacred festival time. 

The fire is lit at sunset on Lohri and burns till sunrise when the water dip is traditionally taken.

Tantra
Keeping the Spirit Alive 

As modernity has set in and altered the structures of living, the celebration has started to decline from a form of ritual worship into a public holiday even within rural communities over the last decades.

Sacred days often can be lost and turned into commercial festivities where the aspect of ritual is removed from its central position. Alternatively religious or cultural dogma can pervade such festivities, until the essence and power of the ritual day is obscured.

Tantrics are those who keep the sacred rituals and their significance alive by imbuing them with life force and Tapasya (spiritual effort) 

If the sacred days are understood as portals, to be worked with and honoured in a ritualistic manner, then the chance of taking them for granted as mere customs, or dismissing them as superstitions is safeguarded.

In Defence of Magic

Lohri 
reveals how modernity 
can swallow magic 
and erode powerful 
necessary rights of passage, 
necessary if we are to align 
to the Wisdom of Nature.

The festival of Lohri has much to show us, if we reflect upon the light it sheds carefully (Lohri literally means enlightening).  Lohri reveals how powerful rituals and customs bring people together in communal prayer and blessing. This is the very essence of Tantric ritual.

Lohri reveals how the solar light-oriented face of civilisation does not give honour to the balance of nature’s two ever-present, mutually informing and empowering forces of dark & light.

Lohri reveals that the deepest wisdom, which is the Wisdom of Nature, can easily be glanced at sideways as primitive by the patriarchal eyes of orthodoxy.

And what Lohri perhaps most importantly can reveal to us is to align our currents to what nature is telling and showing us, and not push the guest out of the house before thanking them for the gift of their presence. For in doing so we banish magic from our lives.

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