The Secret Symbolism of Chimneys

FOLKLORE 7 Comments »
Mystical Chimneys

Mystical Chimneys

Why does Santa Claus go down chimneys?  Granted Santa is a fictional creation, but even a legendary character should have some logic behind his behavior.  Why doesn’t Santa just go through a window or door? I feel there is a potential insight here.

Perhaps Santa’s jaunts down the smokestack are for the same reason witches had a reputation for flying up chimneys on their broomsticks.  Since the “historical” witch is also a fictional character, the legendary witch shares something in common with Santa besides their non-existence…their fondness for chimneys.

In the past there were wise men and women, the cunning folk, who might be accused of being the witch of folklore.  But the Devil loving, Sabbath attending, broom flying, storm raising, animal hexing witch was a fabrication of the Church.  An awful fabrication since the Church burned people at the stake for such imaginary offenses.

The fictional witch was said to fly up a chimney on her broom on her way to join the Sabbath.  It was said witches couldn’t fly out a window or door.  It could only happen using the chimney.  Quoting Emile Grillot De Givry, “A witch could not leave by the door or even the window: the dark, mysterious hole of the chimney, where only the sweep’s boy could venture without quaking, was her customary channel to communicate with Heaven.”


Since both Santa and witches are creatures of the imagination, their behavior could be considered a reflection of our own subconscious and therefore symbolic.  

Flying Santa And Witch

Flying Santa And Witch

As a metaphor we could look at our home as representing our physical body.  Inside our home we dwell, sentience kicking around like the mind inside our brain.  The windows of the house are like eyes and ears through which we can see outside and hear what is happening around us.  A home’s door is like the mouth, through which we bring in sustenance and communicate with those outside. 

What does the chimney represent?  It is a dark corridor between our self and the heavens.  It cannot be easily traveled thru, and it exits out to a place where we are not meant to stand: above us.  The chimney symbolizes the secret connection between earth and sky, our selves and the Universe.

If the chimney is a metaphor for the passageway between the physical world and the spiritual, then the behavior of Santa and the Witch makes sense.  Santa symbolizes the Powers Outside seeking to enter our home, enter our imagination, and give blessings in many forms.  Santa sneaks in and does not knock leaving behind spiritual gifts.

The Witch represents our own personal imagination.  The Witch lives inside the house but seeks to enter into another realm.  This world cannot be entered through the physical senses (the body’s doors and windows).  It has to be entered through our quiet inner core…the tunnel, the chimney within us.   Spiritually or creatively the witch wants to escape the four walls. 

Tarot's Lightening Struck Tower

Tarot's Lightening Struck Tower

All of this may not be only symbolism.  People who had out-of-body experiences reported seeing their body below them as they hovered around the ceiling.  Some also reported passing above the ceiling, thru the structure until they were high above the building where they could literally see the roof.  Like a witch up a chimney!

The idea of a building representing the human body is nothing new. The Tarot card the “Lightning Struck Tower” displays such symbolism.  The flesh colored tower suggests the body with a crown at the top symbolizing the human intellect.  Lightning from above splits the crown from the building, separating mind and body.  The falling men are incapable of flight.

Notice how much the tower resembles a chimney.  The lightning could represent the severing of our higher consciousness from our everyday consciousness. We’d lose our compass, our sense of direction.  We are falling and not flying like jolly Santa dropping by with gifts, or the flying Witch seeking enlightenment.   This card suggests a divorce between our higher consciousness and us.

Faerie Festival



I was invited to visit the annual World of Faeries festival by a friend.  I like faeries so I was happy to join Jamie and his family.  I’ve never been to this annual festival before which was held in South Elgin, IL.  The weather was overcast and windy, with the threat of rain at any minute.  Somehow it seemed appropriate for a fairy festival, since fairies very much symbolize the captiousness of the natural world.  The faeries of legend can be friendly one day and hostile the next, and as nature spirits they reflect nature.

fairy-festival-costumesMany of the attendants were dressed up in fairy and medieval costumes.  A lot of the costumes were really elaborate.  It did feel like we had entered fairyland.  There were tents selling all types of fairy related crafts, a lot of cool stuff.  They had performers.  Above is a picture of a crowd pleaser, a performer who created huge bubbles that floated through the air as the children chased after them.  The music included the Elven Drummers. My favorite was a lady who would freeze and appear to be a statue (pictured left below). 

Jamie joked that maybe some of the people here were real fairies.  That jest might not be purely a jest.  It was held in a park by a river at a natural area. A gathering of fairy friendly humans might actually attract the attention of the invisible fairy folk.  The idea of wearing masks and pretending to be fairies is a method to summon the wee people.  Did anybody possess the second sight to actually spot one?

Jamie is a pagan and he ran into number of fellow pagans he knew at this event.  I thought about the significance of the faerie in paganism.  Christianity has its angels and paganism has faeries.  Bird’s wings symbolize angels while butterfly wings symbolize faeries.  Angelic folklore and faerie folklore seem to express the same desire to touch the “other”, to contact benevolent spiritual entitles who sometimes interact with humanity.

To what extent does the faerie of popular imagination reflect the faerie of folklore and reality?  I think the fairy of popular culture does not represent the real thing.  The fairy of folklore was not a sugarplum, Victorian style fairy that rode on caterpillars.  They don’t have butterfly wings.  Unless we imagine them that way.  With their glamour they would appear to us anyway we visualize them.

The faerie of folklore were dangerous beings.  Long ago people would use pleasant names to refer to them, such as the “People Of Peace”.  Why?  So as not to offend them.  To offend the faeries was to bring peril into your home.  The People Of Peace did not suffer fools gladly.  Encounters with the faerie folk were an exercise in diplomacy.  The faerie did not think the same way human beings did.  They essentially had an alien mentality.  They shared some common elements with humanity, but most of their thinking could be considered…non-human.  

The UFO abduction phenomena seem to be the faerie folk at work in the modern world.  They still interact with humanity, at the time and place of their own choosing.  And it is not a pleasant experience for those who make “contact”.   Based on these modern true real life encounters with the Wee People (Grays), our image of fairies as cute things is the result of popular culture and not reality.  Try to imagine butterfly wings on Grays as they abduct your astral body.

As for the festival, I liked a vendor who crafted some nice leather facemasks (below).  I like to dress up for Halloween parties, but finding a classy mask that allows me to breath is not easy.  His masks were great, and he can customize a mask if you wish.  When Halloween comes around  I might be giving him a call.  His booth and his business card are below.mask-maker


Spirit gender and sexuality



Recently I was discussing the topic of angels with someone.  The topic of angelology is large.  One question we pondered …why were all angels male?  All the Biblical angels had masculine names.  Where were the female angels?  Which lead me to expand that question to spirits in general.  Do spirits have a gender?  On the surface it would seem a spirit, being a non-physical entity would not have a gender.  Sex is a physical biological function for the reproduction of a species.  Why would a disembodied incorporeal spirit need a gender?

virgin-maryFirst let’s look at what religious traditions have to say about the possibility of spirit gender.  Traditional religions are clear that angels are sexless, neither man nor woman.  And humanity will become like the angels in the afterlife.  Here is a passage from the bible concerning this:

“‘In the resurrection, therefore, to which of the seven will she be wife? For they all had her.’ But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”” (Matthew 22:28-30)

This would seem to settle the topic from a religious viewpoint.  Yet, Jesus retained his male aspect after his resurrection.  Also intriguing are the Marian apparitions. When the Virgin Mary appeared to individuals (like at Fatima) she clearly retained her womanhood.  Does this mean what we were in life, we retain in the afterlife?  What about those who believe in reincarnation?  People who subscribe to reincarnation have reported that in past lives they often lived as different genders.  Different religious viewpoints come to different conclusions. 

Outside of religious thought, we can look at people’s first hand experiences with ghosts and out-of-body near-death experiences.  People who have encountered ghosts report that these spirits are clearly male or female.  Look at the story of the ghostly hitchhiker, Resurrection Mary, a famous Chicago area ghost.  Resurrection Mary was reported as a young woman seen walking alone down a street (Archer Avenue) near a local ballroom, and is offered a ride by a passerby.  When the car passes Resurrection Cemetery down the road, she asked the driver to stop and left the car only to vanish, or even vanished while in the car.  There were dozens of actual reports of Resurrection Mary over the decades; it was not just an urban legend.  Resurrection Mary and other ghosts clearly retain their sexuality identify after death. 

tunnel-of-lightLooking at near-death experiences, those who go through this experience feel they still resemble their physical body.  Here is an example from a previous post of mine:    Also interesting, when the tunnel of light is encountered (a typical part of this experience) there are reports of being greeted by their dead loved ones.  Their deceased greeters appear as they did in life, but appear young and vigorous, not old or decrepit as when they passed away.  And they still appear as men or women.

Spiritualist and occult philosophy has a viewpoint about this.  According to these ideas, we have a physical body and a spirit/soul.   We also have something that is in-between these two…an invisible, ethereal double.  The ancient Egyptians called this concept the ‘Ka”, or life force.   This life force was an invisible double of our body.  At death, the Ka leaves the body.  Then this Ka “dies” and the Ba (the Egyptian name for the soul) is released to travel outside the realm of time/space.  This Ka double could be called our ghost.  Our ghost-double closely mirrors our physical self, including our sexual identify.   Some suggest that sexuality is not only a physical phenomena but also a spiritual one.   It is said our body’s life force connects with another’s life-force during sex,  sharing this life energy as well.   And what about the Soul, the Ba?  Does the soul retain any aspect of sexuality identify?  I have no clue about that. 

faunA step further into the unknown: can non-human incorporeal entities have sex with humans?  There is a strange passage from Genesis that suggests this is so.  This passage below is often interpreted as angelic entitles actually copulating with mortal women and breeding children.  Hard to get my mind around that one.

” There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. ” (Genesis 6:4)

In mythology non-human beings have a strong sexual identity, and often have intimate affairs with mortals.  Fauns, satyrs, nymphs, the fairy folk are all male or female. There are many stories in our folklore of non-human entities having something resembling sexual interaction with living people.  This was a common theme in faerie phenomena with many tales of the faerie being intensely interested in human sexuality.  Look at the stories of changelings, where the faerie steal away human children and replace them with something else, or faerie abduction of someone taken away into fairyland for sexual purposes.  Why would an immaterial being want such relationships with us? 

alien-entityThis still happens today, but it is called something else.  It is called the UFO alien abduction phenomena.  These reports very often include sexual experimentation on those abducted by these beings.  It seems like these entities’ primary purpose for contact with humans has something do to with reproduction.  These beings may not be flesh and blood alien from outer space, but the same entitles that were once called the faerie, and can appear in any form they wish.  They seem to steal away someone’s “Ka” for their own purposes and then return it.  Again, why?  We’d have to ask them!

A final thought.  The idea about a realm invisible to the physical world is not just speculation.  Science has already recognized something similar to this.  It is called dark matter.  We have no clue what this dark matter is, but it has a detectable gravitational influence on a cosmic scale.  The vast majority of the matter in the universe consists of this invisible dark matter; it holds our galaxies tighter preventing them from flying apart.  The idea of an invisible reality outside our perception may not just be a fantasy.


The folklore and magic of mirrors

FOLKLORE 4 Comments »
Chicago's Sky Gate (The Bean)

Chicago's Sky Gate (The Bean)

In Chicago’s Millennium Park is one of the city’s favorite tourist destinations…the Cloud Gate sculpture, or more commonly called the “Bean”.  It is a huge mirror-polished, stainless steel…bean…that mirrors the city’s skyline.  It is a must see for any visitor to Chicago.  Its like one giant funhouse mirror!  And the best part is beneath the Bean.  Below is a picture I took underneath the Bean looking upwards.  It must be what it feels like to view the 3rd dimension from a higher dimension.  Notice the flash of my camera as it sparks around the reflective surface.

Underneath the Bean

Underneath the Bean

What about mirrors?  The humble mirror has considerable mystical significance.  We all know that breaking a mirror is supposed to be bad luck.  Why is that?  What is the folklore behind the mirror and the power of our reflection?

In the distant past, still pools or bowls filled with water were used for divination.  This was called catoptromancy.  Remember the scene from the Lord of the Rings movie, where Galadriel showed Frodo possible futures in a bowl of sacred water.   That scene was inspired by the actual use of reflective surfaces for scrying by ancient Greek and Roman oracles.  If for some reason this bowl of water fell and broke during the scrying, it was considered an act of fate and an omen of doom.  From this came the common superstition that a broken mirror is bad luck.  The use of a scrying mirror or crystal ball is still a common means of divination today.  Using a scrying mirror for inducing a trance to contact higher dimensions remains a very powerful tool for the modern occultist.

Also contributing to the idea of a broken mirror being bad luck is the belief that our reflections contain part of our soul.  This idea is also very old.  Breaking our reflection would be like breaking our spirit.  There are tribes that refused to let their picture be taken, since they thought the picture will steal part of their spirit, or that the image could be used against them with black magic.

In the past in parts of Europe, when someone in the household died, the mirrors of the home were covered or turned around facing the wall.  It was felt that when the body was to be taken away, they did not want the dead to see their reflection and decide to stay to haunt the household.  Even bowls of open water would be emptied or covered for the same reason…the power of the reflection.  The eyes of the dead were considered dangerous and those eyes had to be closed or the head covered.  Our eyes are our mirrors to the soul, and see one’s own reflection in the eyes of the dead was thought to be bad mojo. 

post-mortem mourning photo

post-mortem mourning photo

Interestingly, the idea that our reflection could be potentially harmful has gone away with the arrival of photography.  The best example of this was the emergence of the post-mortem mourning and memorial image.  This sad, macabre practice of photographing the dead had its day in the Victorian era when photography arrived.  The dead were often dressed and posed to look like they were sleeping.  No more turning mirrors around, now we took pictures and displayed them!  It shows how belief systems can really change.  The first type of camera was the daguerreotype.  With the daguerreotype an image was embedded into a mirror-polished metal surface coated with chemicals.  It is ironic that now the mirror was used to literally capture the reflection of the dead.  

Fraudulent Mumler photo

Fraudulent Mumler photo

Yet beliefs have not really changed entirely.  With the beginning of photography emerged spiritualist photography.  Capturing images of spirits became a fad.  Most of these photos were fake or double exposures.  Yet people still believe that a “mirror” could really capture the spirits of the dead.  Even today, the idea of the mirror, the reflection, could capture a spirit still remains.  It is called ghost hunting!   Here is my own possible ghost picture from an early post of mine.  Real or not?  You judge.

Mirrors have been used for stage illusions.  As the saying goes, “smoke and mirrors.”  There is the magic mirror of fairy tales, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the greatest of them all.” The magical mirror is also an important tool for real magick.  In a future post I will go into detail about some of the methods for using the scrying mirror and crystal ball for clairvoyance. 

Myself photographing the Bean

Myself photographing the Bean