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"Winter Blues" (Chivas)

Thematic Images for the Winter Blues or S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

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Memes for Winter Blues (SAD) Sufferers

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Memes for the Shadow Side of the Winter Blues

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Saturn & Melancholy in the Renaissance: Music Therapy for Melancholy

Since the Middle Ages, Saturn has been known as the planet of melancholy and people born under Saturn’s sign ("Saturday’s Child") have been called "Saturnian" or having a "Saturnine Temperament." 

"It was Aristotle who first postulated a connection between the melancholic humour and outstanding talent in the arts and sciences. 'All extraordinary men distinguished in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts,' he maintained, 'are evidently melancholic.' Thus he gave rise to the belief in the link between genius and melancholy. But the melancholy of such men is a precarious gift, for if the black bile is not properly tempered, it may produce depression, epilepsy, palsy, lethargy and what we would nowadays call anxiety complexes — in a word, although only the homo melancholicus can rise to the loftiest heights, he is also prone to conditions bordering on insanity. . . .


Although the Aristotelian concept of melancholy was never forgotten, the Middle Ages regarded melancholy mainly as a physical disorder and the Church condemned it as close to the vice of sloth (acedia). Not until the late fifteenth century was Aristotle's position newly and fully endorsed. In his De vita triplici (1482-89) Marsilio Ficino showed that melancholy, the ambivalent temperament of those born under the equally ambivalent planet Saturn, was a divine gift, and he, the zealous Platonist, closed the circle by reconciling Aristotle's and Plato's views, for he maintained that the melancholy of great men was simply a metonymy for Plato's divine mania. The Renaissance accepted Ficino's conclusion: only the melancholic temperament was capable of Plato's creative enthusiasm." 

~ Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, "Art and Theory in Renaissance Italy"

Marsilio Ficino, a 15th-century Italian scholar, astrologer and doctor who was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, was greatly interested in melancholia. He wrote extensively about it and recommended ways to remedy it, including prescribing music therapy for sufferers. For Ficino, melancholia was specific to intellectuals; scholars, poets and artists. 

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For some basic scientific facts about SAD, click on pdf file

Thematic Images for the Winter Blues &

the Wyrd (Upside Down) Path of Odin

“Norse mythology hints at Odinic cults, with Odin being worshipped through a combination of ecstatic and seemingly shamanistic rituals. From the eddic poem The Sayings of the High One ( Hávamál ), he is said to have hanged himself in a sacrificial ritual on a tree. Barely surviving this ordeal, Odin gains arcane knowledge, including the use of runes, the ancient Scandinavian alphabet sometimes used for magical purposes. In the poem, Odin chants:”


I know that I hung

on the wind-swept tree

all nine nights

with spear was I wounded

and given to Odin,

myself to me,

on that tree which no one knows

from which roots it grows.


Bread I was not given,

no drink from the horn,

downwards I glared;

up I pulled the runes,

screaming I took them,

from there I fell back again.


(excerpt from Jesse L. Byock's Introduction and Notes, of Sturluson's Prose Edda.)

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The Wyrd Path of Odin & the Paradox of Melancholia 


The Gypsy Scholar would offer, instead of the conventional wisdom about SAD, some crazy-contrary wisdom that can be gleaned from the Norse mythic narrative about the god Odin. 

Given that one of the common complaints of the sufferers of SAD, or the “Winter Blues,” is that they feel all “upside down,” this can be understood as analogous to the existential condition of the Norse god Odin. Odin, a descendant of Saturn (the god of melancholia), is pierced by his own spear and hung upside down from the world tree, the Yggdrasil, for nine days to attain wisdom and thereby retrieve the runes from the Well of Wyrd, which Norse cosmology regarded as the source and end of all mystery and all knowledge. The moment Odin glimpsed the runes he died, however the knowledge of them was so powerful that he immediately returned to life. This dying-and-reborn god had learned eighteen runes and nine songs and he attained the great wisdom from the Well of the Wyrd, but it cost him one eye, leaving him with the one that then looked inward. 

Therefore, the moral of the story of Odin: during this Winter Solstice season, when some of us are subject to the seasonal depression of SAD, when we feel ourselves hung upside down, with a feeling of an isolating cold numbness that draws us downward out of life, we can take heart and know that the “darkness” inside is, paradoxically, a necessary way to the light. In other words, it may be that the Odinic crazy wisdom tells us that it is precisely the wyrd, dark places in the psyche—like our depressions—that hold the key to psycho-spiritual transformation. After all, looking at things upside down gives you a new perspective. Does it not? Thus, the Gypsy Scholar would say it's not “tis the season to be jolly,” but rather “tis the season to be melancholy”!

Thematic Images for the Winter Blues  Depression

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