There is nothing more satisfying to a pagan like myself than when serendipity provides great little confluences (remember, there is no coincidence, only the illusion of coincidence), and today is a great one. Oct 28th is the beginning of two different months in the pagan tradition, two months that seem to have very different meanings, and yet are linked.
In the Asatru, today is the beginning of the Runic month of Hagal; Hagal is the hailstone, a symbol of transformation as winter approaches; the Norse recognized in the simple hailstone the winter change, from water to ice, and the change that would occur again at winter’s end, back to water again. The hailstone can fall with violent effect, smashing homes and crops, but then reverts back to harmless water. As symbolic of these frozen elements, the drawn symbol, like a pointed star, can still be seen on houses as a sign of protection against those elements. Hagal is also associated with the very magical number nine, three times three, and is such is a rune with great power to bend and disrupt, bringing its transformative energies to whatever you apply it to.
Today also marks the beginning of the Celtic Tree month of Ngetal, or Reed; Reed is a month of vision, and of establishing order, seen in the measuring metewand, and of the recording pen, both made of reed. The order that cam come from this survives disaster, as in the saying, “The Reed stands when the Oak falls”; by careful control of what we have, we are better able to weather bad luck and unforeseen happenings. Its color is green, that of growing things, and later (most probably in the Medieval era) the month became associated with the guardian of the Greenwood, Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck.
So here we have two months with seemingly disparate elements, one of change, and one of order, one of transforming, and one of recording, which is after all fixing something in place. Either one is suitable for invocation this month, but thinking of them together is especially intriguing. Can measuring and transforming work together?
In particle physics, it is a concept of sub-atomic experiments that the very act of observing such particles changes what they do, as the photons in light bombard and alter their course or behavior. The obsessively compulsive among you might disagree, but it has been my experience that after counting something, I never have quite the number I envisioned. I head to the ATM, thinking I have x dollars and what I’m going to do, and it turns out (almost always) that I have less than I thought, and have to change my plans. I plan a lab for my students, thinking I have so many beakers, test tubes, or samples of a chemical, and then after a count I find I have to change my plans. The truth is that measure and change go hand in hand, for after all why do we measure? Why do parents mark the wall with how tall their children are every year, why do collectors count their stamps, their spoons, their Elvis commemorative plates? Because those numbers, those values, those things that seem fixed in time, are actually constantly changing. It is in measuring something that we ready it to transform.
So, this month, take advantage of these powers; count, measure, record what you have, especially something that you may not have reckoned in a long time, then dwell on how knowledge of that number transforms you and your perceptions. The old axiom that the only constant is change seems like just a pun, but it in fact embraces a very great spiritual truth. As you count, measure and reckon, you are actually acknowledging that all things are always in flux, that change is the only truly permanent state of being.