Halo Rainbow by Kurayba CCBY2
I. The Science behind Halos/Historical and Mythological Perception
II. The Relevance for the Modern Day Occultist
III. Personal Reflections through Gnosis
I. The Science behind Halos
A halo is likely to be drawn, because it is drawn from the observation of natural patterns.
The most common halo observed in nature is a ring of light at 22° from the sun, or moon. But there are several kinds of halos that can be observed in different kinds of cool weather. The natural conditions that lead to the appearance of halos are more common in colder climates, and during winter time. This is because halos form where the air is cool. If the air is cool enough halos may form on summer days, as well as in warmer climates. This is due to the fact that the halos are formed from ice crystals. When the light breaks through the falling ice crystals to bring out a halo, we know that in order for it to happen, certain conditions must have been met.
Size, angle, geometrical shape and symmetry all contribute to the distinct nature of a halo’s visible appearance. The ice crystals in a halo are hexagonal. In other words they are tiny hexagonal prisms. When they are placed in a position to do so, they create a ring of light. This is all very similar to when a rainbow appears, with some notable differences. For example, a halo displays the color spectrum in the opposite order of a rainbow. It is red at the center, and blue at the outer edge, while a rainbow is red at the outer edge, and blue towards the center.
“…a halo displays the color spectrum in the opposite order of a rainbow.”
The Connection of Halos to Norse History and Mythology
The observation of halos goes far back in the history of weather forecasting in Sweden. Traditionally halos and sundogs are some of the most common signs used to predict the weather in our cold climate. In Norse folklore and mythology weather has often played a great part in how we tell our stories.
A parhelion, or a sundog, is called solvarg in Swedish, meaning sun wolf. It was thought to be a troublesome sign that one of the giant wolves was on the loose, and threatening to swallow the sun. The gods, and goddesses, of Norse mythology were mostly seen as heros constantly fighting off the end of the world. The end of the world was seen as something that was constantly just about to happen. Wolves were chasing the sun and the moon across the sky.
The sun and moon were thought of as deities, called alfer. At the end of time they would be swallowed whole by the wolves, and that would be the end of everything. When people saw a sundog, they saw a pair of shining fangs twinkle just next to the sun. They saw Sol, their protector, being threatened.
If this should happen to you, the custom is to look away, and turn your hat backwards, or inside out, to ward off any unpleasantness. Traditionally sundogs were thought to be an early warning sign of bad weather, and this might have added to the pessimistic interpretations of an otherwise beautiful sight.
The deep seated awe surrounding the halo phenomena has lived through many cultural transformations in the Norse regions. It has played its part in feudal times, when church, king, and people were at odds with one another, and looking for signs from God, as a means to make their different political claims.
Feudal politics is behind this beautiful painting from 1535, depicting halos above the city of Stockholm, Sweden. The halos in the painting were said to have appeared as a sign from God that the king had been taking too much of his resources from the church lately. It can be found in Storkyrkan, Stockholm.
Halos were still thought of with great interest in Sweden in the early days of modern science. A study of halos done in Uppsala during the 1860s, went on for seven years with daily observations. The study concluded that halos are so common that if we fail to notice them, it is simply because we are not observant enough.
Today the same interest in halos is most expressed in Swedish newspapers every winter. Readers are asked to submit their best pictures of winter time halos, and the submissions flood the pages year after year. Even when everything changes in society, the signs in the sky remain true to nature. That is why I find natural observation to be useful, both in the study of history, and in the study of magic.
Just as the old scientific study claims, halos are common in Sweden. They can be found anywhere in the world where the air temperature drops below -15° Celsius. In Europe, halos are generally observed one out of every four days. In some parts of the world halos are more common than rainbows. Which is good news for those who would like to see one for themselves. Local weather conditions are often easy to find out, once you know what you’re looking for.
II. The Relevance for the Modern Day Occultist
A halo in nature is the result of what you might as well call fire and water, i.e. sunlight and ice crystals.
Above the halo, there is sometimes a ”tangent arc”. This appears as a crescent attached to the top of the halo, with the horns of the crescent pointing up. It looks a lot like the glyph of Mercury, the messenger of the gods.
A more rare phenomenon is the double halo. The second halo then occurs at 46° from the sun.
”Amazingly, these two halos match the mean orbits of the inner two planets Mercury and Venus, as seen from the surface of the Earth. So, when you look at a double ice halo, you really are seeing the spheres of the mean orbits of Mercury and Venus, hanging there in the sky.”
– John Martineau, A Little Book of Coincidence in the Solar System, 2001
And so, a halo is likely to be drawn because it is drawn from the observation of natural patterns. You might even draw one for yourself. Using your own two hands, stretched out at arms length, you have in front of you a good pair of tools. Your own hands may be useful for a variety of astrological, or astronomical, purposes. From finding your star to following the moon.
Learning how to navigate, or setting up a ritual. Even for better understanding older rituals, and forgotten knowledge, you may come across in your own magical research. Especially when no one else is around to explain things for you, and you might need to rely on yourself to make sense of things, it’s good to have something to rely on.
All you have to do is hold out your hand. The back of your hand is approximately 10° of the sky across your knuckles. Your little finger is 1° across the tip. Imagine a halo that surrounds you. And there you are, all set up, and ready to go exploring.
III. Personal reflections through Gnosis
Here are some drawings I made to illustrate how the glyphs of the inner planets fit into a geocentric viewpoint of the heavens. With the help of this symbolic view of the orbits, it’s easy to imagine how they could coincide with the view of the halos.
Another modern day magical coincidence occured to me while reading cards with The Thoth Tarot, by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris. Looking at card number 0, The Fool, I couldn’t help but to imagine the halos, and the glyphs, looking back at me. I wrote down my reading, as follows: