Below is the full text of the Instructions given by Rudolf Steiner to his pupil Herbert Hahn for the Four Weeks of Advent and the Thirteen Holy Nights. The original text, stenographed in German, visible immediately after this introduction, is without author, but is believed to have been transcribed by Herbert Hahn during a private conversation with Steiner for the biographical work. It was shared online in December 2013 by Jean Benedicte who in turn received it from his grandmother Sunhilt Benesch. The translation is edited by Laura Zanutto, later revised by Mark Willan and with the fundamental contribution of a German native speaker who wants to remain anonymous. I would like to thank all those who contributed to the translations. These were then further revised by me.
The images refer to the 12 regions of the Zodiac through the 12 days and 13 Holy Nights, from Christmas Eve on December 24th to Epiphany on January 6th. The images were drawn by the painter Imma von Eckardtstein (1871-1930) in early 1910. The images were then included in the first edition of Rudolf Steiner’s Soul Calendar. Imma von Eckardtstein created the first version of the new signs of the Zodiac of the Future Jupiter following the impressions given to her by Rudolf Steiner himself. Steiner drew these images of the next Metamorphosis of the Earth by observing the Sun dawning in every sign throughout the year. Steiner also used variants of these imaginations in the Misraim Service, arranging the various signs to delimit the sacred space of the Temple of Malsch and Stuttgart.
Every imagination of the signs imaginatively shows the awakening and falling asleep of the elemental forces associated with the 12 Signs of the Zodiac, as well as the color associated with the passage of the Sun in each of the zodiacal regions. The central form, chosen to represent the 13th Holy Night, is the imagination of the newborn child that is born on Earth as an image of the Cosmos, in which the zodiacal forces conform the various parts of the human body in the Zodiacal Melotesia. Around this “cosmic newborn” we have the 12 zodiacal regions starting at the top left and moving counterclockwise: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. The images are taken from the website of Kim Grae Munch.
Rudolf Steiner – Esoteric Indications about Christmas for Herbert Hahn
For Advent Time
For light seekers, life’s difficulties should be a special touchstone in the Advent period. We must always strive to separate the person from the cause of suffering, because suffering and difficulties are sent to us as trials, and the people who cause us difficulties are only tools. We should adapt to every situation, rest, without getting lost in it! – The content of the great desire of this time is to truly incorporate the Divine (state of birth), and not only to experience the Divine in exceptional situations. Everything that is connected with the earthly personality should be eliminated and we should be as spontaneous, completely relaxed, towards each other. Everything we talk about and understand, discussions, irritations, we should leave all these ballasts. Before every great feast there is an opportunity to overcome something in itself, it is sacrifice!
Indications for Christmas
Grace. Advent, the light that comes to light everyone in the middle of the night. The earth has completely emptied, life has receded. The Earth is like an empty shell. All the juices of the vegetable kingdom recede. Everything is preparing to receive the Divine.
In the first of Advent man must prepare himself for sacrifice, for Service and be ready to serve and love. He should observe himself with the inner eye and experience this day as the celebration of the desire of birth. The consecration of the celebration is: “I dedicate myself to the ministry of the Spirit that must be born in me. The thoughts are directed to the Christ who is born in man.
Second of Advent
The man begins to search and feels in his search that alone he is unable to do anything. Then he prepares his heart so that the Divine will give you hospitality, for when I do without the Negative, there is room for the Divine.
Third of Advent
Man seeks the true reality that resides in the Spirit. The key to the Spirit and to all spiritual knowledge is sacrifice.
The Voice of Silence says: “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I want to forgive everything”.
Fourth of Advent
The man has found the road and is preparing to walk on it. This requires mastery of the earthly body. Only then can the Son of God awaken in man. The aspiration in this time is to make the Kingdom of God visible through oneself, through one’s attitude and one’s work in the world. We are the bearers of this eternal Spiritual Kingdom. The stages of Advent are stages of consciousness of the soul.
For the Holy Nights
On December 24th the 12 Holy Nights begin. The 12 Holy Nights are symbols for the 12 forces of the soul that live in us. And so this indication is valid forever, not only for the 12 Holy Nights.
On January 1st, at noon we have the Sun as close to the Earth as possible and that is why there are five and a half days before and five and a half days after, which is the time of the 12 Holy Nights.
On these evenings, the darkest of the year, we are closer to the Spirit of the Sun, and this means that the Spiritual Sun shines from within the Earth, makes everything transparent and illuminates everything from within, not like afterwards, when the Sun illuminates the Earth from above, from outside.
One must undertake these 12 perfectly awake and well aware Holy Nights. It is important that on the first evening (December 24) you stay awake until one or two in the morning. On the other nights, if possible, trying to go to bed regularly, at the same time, it is of paramount importance to live a regular rhythm at this time; if this is not possible in active life, one should try to do so internally; those who cannot remain silent in external life should constantly try to be inwardly aware of the sacredness of time. It is important to carry out daily tasks without losing sight of this awareness, the sacredness of time, not allowing anything unhealthy, no unpleasant, threatening or worrying movements to enter the soul, always remaining vigilant and rigorous with oneself in this sense.
During the experience of Christmas, with its 12 Holy Nights, we sow the seed for the next 12 months. Therefore these 12 days are important, if for example we make mistakes on the first day, we sow a seed, which will germinate negatively in the blood in the first month.
We must try to spend the 12 holy days correctly, according to the law, because every year we need to work on our rebirth and we cannot lose a year.
24/25 December – 1st Holy Night
January – ♑︎ Capricorn
On Christmas Eve, when Christ is born into the soul, the soul asks: Can I be heard with all my weaknesses, my faults and my passions?
Symbol: The Stable of Bethlehem, in whose humility and poverty the Light of the World was born. The Voice of Silence penetrates the soul and teaches us to joyfully affirm the good in us and in others.
Capricorn. The Divine Spirit was born in the Matter. Spirit and Matter. The Alpha and Omega touch and life is born.
Mystery: The soul yearning in the darkness of a forest without paths.
25/26 December – 2nd Holy Night
February – ♒︎ Aquarium
Night of John. The Eagle of the Soul hovers high on its wings, looking back from a great height and observing its own life. Now man recognizes the laws of Karma.
Mystery: choose the narrow and difficult path or the wide and simple way. It is difficult for the one born of the flesh to find the path of the spirit.
Bhagavad Gita: a selfish life or a life dedicated to humanity?
26/27 December – 3rd Holy Night
March – ♓︎ Pisces
The Three Nights of the White Lily.
The soul recognizes that it cannot linger upwards and is pulled downwards again, as it still has much earthly weight in itself.
The soul consciously begins to purify the earthly body, considering every food a “Holy Viaticum”. “I am the bread…”
“We come from bread, we live from bread along the path of formation and return to bread.”
Mystery: Never forget the Goal of Destinations along the wide paths in the Earthly Kingdom.
27/28 December – 4th Holy Night
April – ♈︎ Aries
Consciously purify the astral body: antipathy and sympathy are transformed into Love. Passions and cravings are silent. The strength of Christ penetrates with His light and His strength into what is luciferic in us.
Mystery: the work on ourselves serves the well-being of all. The archangel Uriel places us before a mirror in which we see ourselves as we are.
28/29 December – 5th Holy Night
May – ♉︎ Taurus
Consciously purify the body of thought.
Discipline the thought. Focus on positive things. Convert the black doves of thought into white doves, because our thought can be compared to a dovecote, until it is consciously conducted with discipline. We must close this dovecote to negative and strange thoughts.
Mystery: The purification of the Temple through Jesus Christ.
29/30 December – 6th Holy Night
June – ♊︎ Gemini
Now follow the three Nights of the Sword.
The Night of Peter. Night of the Consecration of the Sword.
Each of us must forge our own sword of discernment. Each of us must unite with increased willpower the two sides, the Immortal, the Eternal and the Perishable, so as to recognize the truth.
Mystery: Merging the Son of God with the Son of Man – Unity!
30/31 December – 7th Holy Night
July – ♋︎ Cancer
The Serpent to the Hilt of the Sword. Wisdom. Devote yourself to high readings. It is the night of the Great Commandment.
Mystery of activity: Who rules our souls? Who is the Lord of our soul, the author of our actions? We have the freedom to strengthen the good will within us.
31 December/1 January – 8th Holy Night
August – ♌︎ Leo
The Cross on the Hilt of the Sword. Sacrifice. The tongue, encircled with the sword of the Christic force, speaks the truth without hurting. It is the night that drives away terror.
Mystery: the knight, the fighter with the spear of the will and the sword of knowledge. The dog as a symbol of obedience. Behind him Death and the Devil! To a certain degree of knowledge, every wrong move quickly leads to perdition. Victory is achieved through the Fullness of God and untiring loyalty to the tasks of the Lion.
1/2 January – 9th Holy Night
September – ♍︎ Virgo
Now to follow the three Nights of the Crown.
The detachment from the cold intellect or the separation of the intellect from earthly constraints and ends. This is the triple Holy Night, in which the lower self surrenders and all that remains is the desire to serve and to give oneself.
2/3 January – 10th Holy Night
October – ♎︎ Libra
It is the night when the greatest Sacrifice develops and grows from serving (and giving oneself).
Learn to listen obediently to the Inner Voice and the Signs of the Divine.
Mystery: the Voice within us that calls through the various incarnations: its clarity increases through sacrifice and decision.
3/4 January – 11th Holy Night
November – ♏︎ Scorpio
The eleventh night: the fight with the Threshold Keeper.
Mystery: building within us the Castle of the Grail. To profess more and more loyalty to the Most High.
4/5 January – 12th Holy Night
December – ♐︎ Sagittarius
On the Twelfth Night the Crown obtained at the feet of the Divine is laid because, if it was we who fought to conquer the Crown, it was Grace, the divine law, that granted it to us. Because Grace is the inflow from a spring that man, with human strength alone, is unable to reach. Now the Beginning and the End are one. Time-without space and Space-without time. All is eternal and holy now! The focused and resolute forces of Sagittarius must be engaged so that they can receive the spiritual good.
5/6 January – 13th Holy Night
Future Year – Adam Kadmon – Epiphany
What we have understood and received in the Twelve Holy Nights, we must now bring into life and spiritualize matter and soul.
The Dante Twelve Nights are important for life and destiny throughout the year. They can plant a seed of Good Will.
To further deepen the Holy Nights, you can read:
- The 4 Weeks of Advent
- 13 Holy Nights – Part One: December 24-31
- 13 Holy Nights – Part Two: 1-6 January
- Book – The Thirteen Holy Nights and Anthroposophical Christmas