I wasn’t inspired enough to post this until the end of this “magical” 8/8 day. My understanding of what the day was or is supposed to be is complicated by the reality of a collective undergoing serious structural changes. I am not writing this to bash die-hard or newly converted New Age enthusiasm, but I am going to touch a little on confusion around cultural appropriation of “ancient” holidays. This article is really aimed at those who feel like they’re supposed to be celebrating Lion’s Gate or know exactly what it means and are too embarrassed to admit they might not really have a clue or are getting mixed messages about it.
KUNG FU FIGHTING
A very cool Shaolin monk ended EVERY grueling gong fu conditioning class with EVERY exhausted mouth in the warehouse temple using EVERY last iota of energy to shout “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!” Maybe “Happy Birthday” was in there, too, I can’t remember. The point was, every day (or every day you worked yourself to a sweaty pulp) is something worth celebrating. The uniting of energy toward a common focal point or phrase is also something of a magical ritual. This is how mantra works. We said it, and we felt the transformative power EVERY time.
This was most likely said at the end rather than at the beginning of the class, because when you’re physically broken, or primed for new conditioning, you’re more likely to adopt a belief that you wouldn’t necessarily consciously choose. Destruction is a necessary phase of rebuilding. This defines our understanding of “healing” or transforming. Transformation is an aspect of magic, the play of manipulating external and internal realities.
If you’re not choosing what you’re rebuilding, then it is brainwashing. If you are consciously choosing, then you are aligning with motivation and a necessary phase of personal healing and development. If you don’t break up what is old, you can’t rebuild anything new. If you don’t put in any work, you’re not really open enough to let in the renewing, festive energy of celebration.
Every day, or observable shift from dark to light, is a potential for renewal. Every day is a chance to honor yourself. Most often, we forget this, so it helps to get that reminder from things outside of us. And, as in the gong fu example, that reminder is perhaps more effective when we hear it at a time when we’re vulnerable and therefore open or empty enough to more deeply fill ourselves with and integrate the message. There is also a magic when multiple individuals at once put their personal enthusiasm and energy toward acknowledging something. You may be tired, but the united presence of others equally tired has a way of lifting you all up. It’s team spirit. And this is not so different to what happens with “holiday spirit”.
This is one aspect of what goes on when a group of individuals decide that one particular day or moment is worth celebrating. And it’s not uncommon for the most celebrated days to come after a time of lack or extended periods of stress or labor. Harvest season is likely to be more celebrated after all the work has been put in. Our “holiday season” happens when the days are shorter, there’s more literal darkness (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) and collective pressure to finish the year on a non-depressing high note. Work hard and go hard on gratitude or celebration in equal measure seems to be a formula humans understand.
SYNC IT TO YOUR CALENDAR
If a chosen holiday or reason for celebration gets popular enough or repeated enough, there’s an energetic time-space imprint locked in the collective memory. Calendar systems (generally based on celestial movements) just help us keep track of these naturally chosen cycles. Most if not all calendar systems ought to, in order to be effective and universal, sync up in some way with the most expansive set of observable cycles (i.e., with the celestial movements). This way, at least in the past, they could apply to anyone anywhere who could observe the cycle you’d be setting your watch by.
Nonetheless, calendar systems have not remained consistent throughout time. They have been adjusted to suit their users for one reason or another and likely will continue to be as our ability to measure the skies, define time, and observe phases, seasons and cycles evolves. “Party time”, every so often, will shift accordingly, but there remains an echo of what came before.
Our Gregorian calendar, which has something to do with the aligning of August 8 or 8/8 to the cosmic energy behind what we associate with this specific day or seasonal time-space moment, was only adopted in the late 16th century. The lore around Lion’s Gate seems to be much older than that. So is 8/8 complete bull dookie? Not necessarily… but celebrating this number 8 alongside this specific time of year was most likely a post-16th century adoption unless by coincidence there was a different 8-pattern going on in the past. I wouldn’t discount it entirely for the sake of it, but pre-Gregorian calendar, they were not, to my knowledge, celebrating August 8 as “the” 8/8 holiday of Lion’s Gate. And yet, this year, it seems like we’re supposed to celebrate “8/8 Lion’s Gate”. Can’t you feel it in the air?
Numbers are powerful entities that define our values, growth cycles, are synced up to natural patterns, planetary orbits, and so much more. Celebrating or finding power in specific numbers or sequences makes sense to the pattern-loving brain. My clock says 11:11, hell yes, I must be doing something right. But do you really love numbers that much to base a whole celebration on just the little 8/8 pattern or are you deciding to take something you don’t understand and “put a bird on it” to feel a sense of creative connection to it because others seem to value it?
8 has many cultural, esoteric and pattern-based associations with “manifestation”, growth, and abundance. If you put 8 on its side, it becomes an infinity symbol. Wow. Humans are creative by nature. So, celebrating these themes or setting goals around them on an “8” day isn’t pointless. If you’re really excited about celebrating (damn it, I deserve it) and calling in those lovely 8-themed things, and you have some others who are just as jazzed about it, what’s stopping you?
Use and build on that energy and the coincidental date to get a desired result without needing a connection to an older historical reason or tradition. How do you think National Donut Day started? If you dig deep enough, you’ll probably find some cultural coincidence from the past that magically lines up to support the auspiciousness of your chosen moment, too. If you’re spiritually inclined, do an 8/8 manifestation ritual. Why not? You’re likely to get, or force-until-you-find, a result that will convince you it wasn’t pointless. I could digress and talk about 2012 and the Mayan calendar here, but I’ll just leave it at that.
AVOIDING CULTURAL APPROPRIATION
Climate change seems to be negatively affecting the reliability of our understanding of seasons. Does it still make sense to organize holidays by celestially dictated seasons? Globalization is further creating an inevitably sloppy mish-mash of calendars, holidays, and cultural ideas about when to celebrate this or that. And careful, if you want to celebrate something that’s not part of your bloodline tradition, you are a horrible, insensitive, ignorant, colonizing scumbag and should be publicly shamed for it without any possibility of making up for what your ancestors may have done. Or, if you’re choosing not to celebrate something that is part of your heritage and ancestral history, you are a disgrace to all who came before you.
Maybe if I look deep enough I’ll find a past life experience or a percentage of historical connection to some tradition that will justify my perceived authentic desire to respectfully be a part of it all. Then I can reclaim it, and then it will be socially OK for me to not isolate myself from others or celebration. Or maybe I just live in the area, and I’m here, and that local party sounds like fun, so what do I need to do to get on the guest list? Reducing historical or traditional holidays to standardized number patterns might just be what the machines end up doing to avoid having to touch this debate, choose one tradition over another, or force an artificial hybridization.
“Diet starts Monday.” “I’m quitting after New Year’s.” We like to use numbers and cycles to define new phases and goals. If you haven’t really worked or emptied yourself out, however, the effectiveness of your 8/8 manifestation bonanza or rebirth might be underwhelming, but you can still celebrate whatever you want. To pretend or notice that you could coincidentally be connecting to primordial rebirth energies just because the day happens to be 8/8, however, isn’t really logical, but, again, you have the free will to think whatever you want. And, if you get enough people on board, you’re on your way to, consciously or accidentally, culturally defining a day. Every holiday has to start somewhere.
Historically, the agricultural calendar (i.e., availability of food) and celestially measured seasons might have dictated when holidays could be celebrated. Forget for the moment that seasons and Nature-based agriculture (Nature-based anything for that matter) seem to be going out of style. The stars and celestial bodies will inevitably happen to reflect or sync up with these seasonal cycles and decided holidays. There are enough of them to choose from, after all.
Tracking stars and celestial bodies gives us a sense of time and structure, whether we’re doing it ourselves or using the calendars based on it, so we like to use it. Making up stories (a form of mnemonic device) helps us remember patterns, and culturally, we like to do it. Belief in these stories or the stars, other than being a source of motivation or inspiration, doesn’t really have much to do with it, practically speaking, but the enthusiasm belief generates can keep something alive or going. Traditions do need to be fed to be kept alive.
EMBRACING CULTURAL APPROPRIATION
You don’t have to believe in Santa Claus or Jesus to celebrate Christmas. Were the current Christmas myths and stories slapped on top of an older coincidental astrological acknowledgement and celebration of the Winter Solstice and the return of the light when days started to get brighter in the Northern Hemisphere? Does the “holiday spirit” of Christmas pre-date Santa Claus and Jesus? Is celebrating Christmas culturally insensitive or blasphemous because it might actually have to do with pagan astrology? Should I be celebrating December 21 instead of December 25 to be more authentic and one with the cosmos?
You don’t have to celebrate anything. But neither should you isolate yourself from a celebratory spirit that happens to be going on within the planet you inhabit, no matter your own personal beliefs, and genetic or environmentally conditioned traditions. The energy of celebration has been built up for long enough, continues to be fed by other inhabitants of the planet, so it is generally around.
For some who are sensitive to others, psychically or not, it is a real, tangible, sometimes spiritual feeling of union, being a part of something. So, whether you directly honor a holiday or not, its presence is large enough to create an environmental impact, especially when enough time or people have been involved in perpetuating it. You’re not stupid or shameful if you feel something on a supposed holiday you know nothing about experientially.
You are here, you are a part of this Earth and are therefore influenced on some level by what goes on here. Even with our differences, we all have a responsibility to this common home planet. We cannot pretend we are not aware of others. Where you have put your energy in the past and where you put it in the present will, like it or not, influence everyone else on some level.
For that reason, you shouldn’t necessarily have to force yourself into becoming a worried and wet blanket over issues of preventing cultural appropriation at all costs. Conversely, you don’t have to fight your consciously recognized traditions and force yourself to blindly tolerate and embrace those of others just to prove how woke you are. Or, you shouldn’t have to wholeheartedly reject what you were born into because your soul chose something that wasn’t trendy. You can, however, put effort toward becoming less ignorant. And you can educate yourself and make more informed decisions regarding where you consciously put your energy, because your energy matters to everyone.
SO WHAT THE HELL IS LION’S GATE?
I’m convinced there are better researched articles on the history of Lion’s Gate, which this is not, but here’s my understanding in a nutshell. Lion’s Gate refers to the time of year (generally taken to be about 2 weeks long) where the star known as Sirius once again starts to become visible in the Northern Hemisphere after a period of being visibly absent from the night sky. It is my understanding that Sirius is and has been universally recognized as the brightest star in the sky, observable by the naked eye, by most traditions and civilizations that include watching the sky among their routine activities. If you adopt an “as above, so below” mentality, then a time of seeing the return of the brightest star outside of you might suggest something about some brightness returning within you.
Planets are “wandering stars” because they have an orbital pattern. They move and circulate around a consistent belt which Western astrology standardizes and divides into 12 portions that we know of as the “signs” of the zodiac. The signs are just labeling 12 pieces of sky real estate. Stars do not move like planets do. Over long stretches of time, yes, they will inevitably move a little bit, but generally, they are considered fixed. They are fixed to a specific piece of sky real estate. When that piece of sky real estate is visible, the stars within it are, too.
So what does it mean if Sirius the star is suddenly visible again in the night sky? I thought stars don’t move. Yes, but WE move, so at different moments, some things can appear visible while others are not. If you drive down a straight road with a passenger then turn around and drive back the other direction down the same road, what the driver saw out the window on the way up becomes what the passenger sees on the way back and vice versa. This is why a star can be visible in the night sky for half the year and not the other half. It depends on where on the path the Earth is in its orbit around the Sun.
THE LION PART OF THE EQUATION
I am a Western astrologer. When we talk about Aries season, Leo season, Sagittarius season, we’re orienting ourselves on that road or orbital path the Earth makes around the Sun. We are in Leo (the Lion) season at the time of writing this according to Western astrology. That means that from Earth, it appears like the Sun is moving through the patch of sky real estate we call Leo, and that will last for about a month. That also means that during that month, at the time of sunrise, that patch of sky real estate we call Leo will be the part of the sky we observe to be rising up over the Eastern horizon along with the Sun.
Western astrology certainly predates the Gregorian calendar, so users of much older calendar systems in the Western tradition still observed it to be “Leo season” at this time of year way back when. Leo (the Lion) territory has been and continues to be observed as rising at sunrise at this time of year. It was and still is time for Leo energy to shine. Sirius the star starts to become visible during Leo season. The precision around this timing is acknowledged to last for a couple weeks. This could be why some have used more vague or non-day-specific terminology like “gate” or “portal” to describe this “Lion’s Gate” period. Maybe prior names given to this time were more Sirius- rather than Leo-oriented. I’m not sure.
CULTURAL FUNCTIONS OF STARS
There are special stars in the sky, like Sirius, that have unique visible qualities that make them recognizable. The oldest forms of astrology tended to focus more on stars than patches of sky real estate or planets probably because noticing stars was more accessible. All you had to do was look up. The literal visible qualities of particular stars were often shaped into memorable stories or became enhanced by myths that created a rich interpretive tapestry that started with actual, physical observations. Orientation and positioning by star observations was a more common ability in the past, too; there was a deeper connection to the sky, so the stories and myths probably felt more real to the human experience through personal interactions with said stars within the cultures that collectively honored them.
Historically, at this time of year (these two weeks of Leo season), there might have been big, noticeable seasonal occurrences that people would have, by default, marked and measured by star activity. Sirius happens to be rising right now, and when THIS happens, THAT also seems to happen every year. The most prominent example circulating the Internet right now links to ancient Egypt and the flooding of the Nile, which brought destruction and rich renewal of life. Interesting that some of the interpretive meanings attributed to Sirius are rebirth and renewal or immortality. But Sirius has been visible to a myriad of cultures and traditions at different points in time, and this is just one isolated example. Note that something like annual flooding is not likely to be date-specific, but more likely to fall within a general period. Another vote for the vague “Gate” over the day, at least if we’re basing our holiday on Nature.
RELIVING A PAST LIFE IN EGYPT?
Here in Arizona, we’re just finishing up monsoon season where majestic rains break the spell of intense heat and fill the surroundings with new growth. Looking around, one witnesses a transformation from a hot, dry, seemingly barren landscape to scenes of lush greenery, color, life. The quality and feeling of the air changes. It’s nothing short of magical, and it’s a unique opportunity to still see the transformative power of Nature in action in an awe-inspiring way that could have been similar to the feeling around the Nile flooding, coincidentally around the same time of year.
But, as I was reminded by the one who grounds me, if I’m all up in my head, in a space lacking gratitude or environmental awareness, or completely disconnected from Nature, am I honestly going to notice, let alone celebrate, anything that relates to what’s happening outside of me? Not really. Do you need to be from or live in a desert setting during a monsoon or flooding to earn the privilege of celebrating Lion’s Gate? Will you feel it more if you’re geographically close to the Nile or living on a similar latitude line to that place where this celebration existed? Or do you need to have a connection to the stars to be worthy enough to tap into the magic? How hardcore do you have to be to be able to celebrate?
IS LION’S GATE ABOUT REBIRTH?
So, is Lion’s Gate about rebirth? It makes literal sense for ancient Egyptians, assuming the whole Nile thing is true. I’ve never been there, and I can’t trust what I read anymore given the disinformation megastorm we’re living in, so I’m relying on common sense and feeling to piece it all together. This time of year might annually and coincidentally feel like rebirth for others for totally different, local, or historically specific independent reasons.
Or perhaps it’s not rebirth so much as some other aspect of “brightness”. Sirius is part of the Canis Major constellation, so is the day more related to the myths of loyalty and honor as exemplified by the Dog Star (its other name)? Or are we so tired during these sweltering, Sirius-inspired “dog days” of summer that a party makes logical sense right now to boost morale? What do the non-Western traditions say? “Lion’s Gate” sounds catchier than the “dog” thing though, so we’ll go with the lion name. And 8/8 happening during this historically significant time feels like a synchronicity, so it must be a sign that I’m on the right track.
What does Google say and how many legitimate-sounding justifications and associations do I need to be able to appreciate life and celebrate something? How many times does “bootylicious” need to be uttered before it’s allowed to exist in the English dictionary?
COUNT BY STARS OR COUNT BY NUMBERS?
In this day and age, do we need stars or a number pattern day to justify celebrating “rebirth”? I don’t need a star or number pattern to witness and be inspired by late summer monsoons, where potential under the surface becomes a fully manifest thriving reality in a literal, natural environment, all around me. But I did need another human to remind me of that otherwise I might’ve just taken that aspect of the season for granted.
I do, however, notice stars more than surface reality, and if the coincidental rising of Sirius, associated by many to mean rebirth or generally good stuff, is happening simultaneously, might I reflect more deeply and consequently be more likely to take action steps to embrace within myself the energy of “rebirth” that seems to literally be around me? Probably.
If I lived in a city and couldn’t see the stars or nature, but the 8/8 synchronicity really spoke to me, might that be enough to accidentally share a feeling and latch onto something that is coincidentally happening simultaneously in other places in the world for totally different reasons? Whose reason is better? How many people need to be involved and how many of them do I need to be directly or legitimately connected to before any of it becomes real?
IS NATURE INVITED TO THE PARTY?
Do I also need to wait for a particular time of year to decide to feel “rebirth”? It’s nice if the outer reality or celestial picture is reflecting the theme. It convincingly feels “meant to be” when multiple signs point in the same direction. I also know that “Lion’s Gate” or not, I could just take the time to show up EVERY day and celebrate EVERY day with an intense workout in a temple-warehouse-vortex room full of sometimes strangers, sometimes regulars, and embrace a transformative “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!” on any day I want. Is that enough?
Yet, outside of the vortex, I can see that the whole geographic area and local faces, birds, butterflies, and animals seem equally uplifted at this monsoon time, so it’s even more motivating to feel a part of something. It’s not just connection to people, it’s the connection to the whole environment. It generates even more of a reason to look closer at Nature and observe the beauty all around, and the more presence that generates, the more special it feels. And presence generally helps with embracing transformation or honoring the power of celebration. Do we appreciate it more when it only happens once a year? Are holidays just a trick that we socially devised to stop working for a moment and have an excuse to either escape or feel more present?
Or, even without a monsoon, maybe I know that there’s a big celestial change happening, so I use that as an excuse to let myself feel it. Maybe simply the knowing inspires me to take the time to go outside and just attempt to connect to the present, and that feels more deep and special than the average moment. Does it feel more deep because somewhere out there others are also looking up at the same stars at the same time? Or is it even just the historical echo from the past of people looking up at the stars that is still tangible and reawakened by me repeating the action in the present? Does that matter? Do other people or historical repetition need to be involved for it to matter?
ANCIENT MEANS BETTER
Local or natural events and simultaneous observations based on stars have helped craft inspiring myths and meaning around the stars themselves. Maybe we create stories to both help us keep track of them and give life to connective traditions honoring what it means to be human. No story is more true or legitimate than the other, necessarily, but depending on the degree of repetition and remembrance, some can feel louder or more important than others.
Maybe today we feel like the more obscure, underdog, or exotic holidays should deserve more attention. Maybe we feel disconnected from our own traditions and therefore consider something that seems “ancient” to be more valid. Or maybe what’s more superficially prominent or beautiful holds the sway. Monuments, temples and architectural wonders have been built with certain star positions in mind. Knowing that or not, when you marvel at the constructions, you’re indirectly connecting to the cultural influence of the stars.
The natural world and the stars reflect what we think of ourselves, whether we’re looking at them or not. And whether we’re looking at them or not, we remember and are influenced by their stories. This bond between earth and sky shapes, celebrates, and marks aspects of and recurrent themes within history and civilization. The stars therefore have historically helped us understand who we are, what happens to us, and what will happen to us. They define and remind us of recurrent cycles of the human story. We use them to track, so they keep us on track, especially if we notice them.
MY PERSONAL 2021 LION’S GATE RITUAL
I, for one, don’t care if you celebrated “Lion’s Gate” or not. I made a frozen pizza and spent the whole day obsessively trying to figure out what the day means. It’s a day to be used, like any other, and the degree of connection or meaning within it is defined by personal awareness, choice, whom one collectively associates with, and what that group decides. But let’s remember that holidays and celebrations are intended to unite and bring people together. And it’s a different dance these days because what unites us into groups is undergoing something of a shift. What are the new values? Honestly, we are in the process of figuring that out, because the level of collective awareness and responsibility to the planet itself and its inhabitants is different. And, organizing anything with a group is, let’s say, usually more complicated than deciding something as a solitary individual.
MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE
There can and usually are multiple (as it’s 8/8, let’s say “infinite”) paths that lead to the same point, whether we’re talking literal trails or energetic currents that converge at a point in space-time. Let’s not discount the reality that it might be quite common for completely different traditions at completely different points in time for completely different reasons to celebrate at the same general seasonal or annual period and mark their holiday with the same coincidental star activity albeit with a unique, culturally-specific story around it. And why might this happen? Cultural differences aside, we still share the same sky.
The awkward truth of the socially fractured times is that you don’t have to know or follow someone else’s historical, cultural, or traditional path to necessarily feel the same things at the same time. This doesn’t mean that you should embrace complete ignorance because trying to understand everyone and everything for fear of not offending anyone is too overwhelming. And don’t Google yourself to death trying to learn it all, either. There is a middle path, and you’re capable of finding it for yourself. Or, more likely, just do what someone who looks like they seem to know what they’re doing is doing and adjust accordingly.
However you celebrate your days, be it this one or another one, just start with making it meaningful to you. If you can sync it to the beautiful planet we inhabit by the stars and the natural world, all the better, but start where you’re at. Find an excuse to be present, to connect, empty yourself to the experience. Doing just that is likely to establish more legitimate union with your immediate environment, the sky above, the other people local or remote who are energetically on the same wavelength as you, who are able to see you for what you are rather than what you think you should be. Isn’t that generated feeling of true connection why we choose to celebrate anything in the first place? And, doesn’t that sound more interesting than going through the motions of performing a celebration because you thought you were supposed to?