SAD? Let There Be Light
Hanukkah, other religious traditions may have developed to beat winter-time blues
-Gahl Eden Sasson, CosmicNavigator.com
Can’t understand why you’re so blue during this festive holiday season? The stars may hold the answers.
Capricorn begins on the winter solstice (December 23), the shortest day of the year, on which we encounter the least amount of light. The winter solstice has proven to be rather traumatic for many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere. As we progress toward the winter solstice, the days are stripped of their light. Everything becomes dark and gloomy.
Early stargazers and shamans recognized this phenomenon and its deleterious effect on human mood and behavior, which contemporary psychologists have dubbed SAD (seasonal affective disorder). They recognized that humans, animals and plants react to the changing seasons, a conclusion that astrologers from all over the world have been aware of for thousands of years. The symptoms of SAD include oversleeping, a need for a nap in the afternoon (as in a siesta), a craving for carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain, grouchiness, melancholy and antisocial behavior. Bears have found a practical solution to winter depression; they just go to sleep. Psychologists devised a different remedy – light therapy, in which they expose a patient to … light.
All over the world, wise elders, storytellers, religious teachers and astrologers lit upon a similar solution. I am sure that you and your family have already practiced this same preventive medicine many times before. It’s called the holiday season, or to be more specific: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saturnalia and Yule, just to name a few.
Our astute ancestors, like modern-day psychologists, couldn’t help but notice that people’s moods sour as the days grow shorter. Versed in the practical applications of the ancient alchemical axiom of “as above, so below,” they figured that as the light slowly disappeared above, people’s energy levels declined correspondingly below. In order to enliven their communities, these ancients decided to concoct holiday festivities to crown the winter solstice with special significance. During the darkest time of the year, they created the holidays of light. You can call holidays the real light therapy.
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, was created to counter the growth of darkness both outside and in. During this holiday, Jews from all over the world spend eight days lighting candles. Hanukkah evokes a kind of sympathetic magic designed to abet the growth of light. We light eight candles (eight is the symbol of infinity), and once we reach eight candles on the eighth day, it seems as if the light has achieved a critical mass that will enable it to shine thereafter on its own. The Celts similarly ignited bonfires on the mountaintops during Yule for this same purpose: To beckon light into a darkening world. During Christmas, we drape the treetops in sparkling lights. When you visit any mall or city center around Christmas, you will see light therapy in action. The shops and front yards sparkle with so much light that you barely notice the burgeoning darkness of the night.
More recently, humankind has invented another technique to fight the winter blues. It’s called shopping therapy, but its efficacy is short lived. Shopping’s invigorating boost usually lasts until the first credit-card statement arrives in January. Shopping therapy derives loosely from Kabbalistic spiritual principles, but I have to say that in the last two centuries it has spun a little out of control. Kabbalah works on the principle of giving and receiving, and in the times of darkness we are encouraged to generate love and happiness by giving and receiving gifts. We bring a green tree (the Tree of Life) into our living room and surround it with presents. Jewish tradition calls on us to give chocolate golden coins (called Hanukkah gelt) to children. The chocolate, of course, contains enough sugar to make the kids high enough to forget the dreariness of winter.
Gahl Eden Sasson is a professor of astrology, Kabbalah, mythology and comparative religion. This is an edited excerpt from his recently published book Cosmic Navigator – Design Your Destiny with Astrology and Kabbalah (Wesire, 2008). Sasson consults many politicians, entrepreneurs and celebrities such as: Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker, Uma Thurman, Patricia Arquette and John Cusack. His first book, A Wish Can Change Your Life, is endorsed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and was selected by Madonna for her 2007 book club. For more info about his work and free downloads of his lectures on the zodiac signs, visit CosmicNavigator.com.