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Archive for the ‘Yule’ Category

Weretoad and I had a lovely Winter Solstice!  I was so excited and in a festive mood.  While he was away at work, I finished wrapping gifts, put on some Solstice music, and lit the tree.  It’s the only night we leave it on and it’s a great reminder of what we’re celebrating.

I also busied myself preparing the feast you see at left.  I made a vegetarian roast with baked scallions, carrots, and potatoes.  I also made fresh bread, steamed brussels sprouts, and bread pudding.  Mmmm…carbs… Magical, wonderful carbs!

In addition, I brought home cranberries and made popcorn to turn into garlands.  We did that after our ritual.  After discussing what we should do, Weretoad and I decided to honor the Nature Spirits who have to struggle through the bitter cold.  It is a hard time to be wild.  Many creatures die.  Food is scarce.  We forget that in our warm homes with our stocked larders.  Our main offering was the garland which we put on the little spruce we keep on our patio.  Next year I would like to do more for deities as well but I’m still uncertain as to who I should honor.  Should I visit the Norse deities of my Germanic ancestors and honor Odin as he rides through the sky?  Should I honor the Cailleach as the crone of winter?  Should I give praise to Angus as he is associated with New Grange and thus the Winter Solstice?  I lean more towards the latter two…  I guess we’ll see what next year brings.

We went a bit overboard on gifts this year.  In years past we kept a tradition – three large gifts and three stocking stuffers.  This year…  we kind of forgot and got lost in the joy of giving to each other.  We really need to restrain ourselves next year.  That said – I got some lovely gifts from my husband!  In addition to some shiny and practical items, he also contributed to my growing Pagan library. I got a recycled three ring cardboard binder – something I want to use to make my new Druidic grimoire.  I also received The Black Pullet (an old grimoire) and Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants by Claudia Muller-Ebeling, Christian Ratsch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl Ph.D.  (For my birthday a week ago, he gave me Toads and Toadstools: The Natural History, Mythology and Cultural Oddities of this Strange Association by Adrian Morgan.)  Needless to say, I have a ton of new books to enjoy and learn from!  Squee!

Today I am busying myself with last minute gift sewing and wrapping.  Yes, I still “celebrate” Christmas with my vaguely Christian family.  I love the excuse to see them. They know I consider the gifts I give them to be Solstice gifts just as the ones they give me are for their own holiday of giving and love.  We somehow meet on common ground.  At the same time, I look forward to having my own large home and throwing wonderful Winter Solstice parties for the whole family…  Some day…  This year, I enjoyed my quiet Solstice with Weretoad. 🙂

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Blessed Winter Solstice!  Merry Yule!  Hail the sun and hail to life!

We’ve finally made it to the 21st day of December and my series of Solstice music!  I give you a classic with a Celtic twist – “Deck the Halls” from the seemingly generic Lifescapes album “Christmas Celtic.”  It’s one of those atmospheric CDs you can buy in card shops.  My mum gave it to me when I first started studying Druidism.  I love it.  I’ve never heard holiday music like it.  Deck the Halls is an old standard with incredibly Pagan lyrics, and this begins sounding typical – but wait until the middle!  Everything picks up and all I want is to be in an Irish pub dancing away the Solstice with the tribe!  It always gets me in the mood for festivities.  I’ve played it several times tonight as I prepare the Solstice dinner.

On the menu tonight: a vegetarian roast with baked potatoes, carrots, and scallions; steamed brussels sprouts; fresh bread, and bread pudding.  We’re going to eat, have a Solstice ritual in honor of the sun and the Nature Spirits enduring the cold, then open gifts – but only after giving a garland of popcorn and cranberries to the Nature Spirits.

May everyone have a wonderful Yuletide filled with love, joy, good food, and light!

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I’m back from a successful and amazing craft show!  I will post more about that some other time.  For now I need to catch up on the 21 Days of Solstice Music!  Eeep!

Let’s start off something psychedelic.

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“Shaman Spirit Reindeer of Siberia” by Magicfolk is one of the most interesting holidays songs I’ve ever heard.  The music video is bizarre but playful*.  I can’t help but love it.  You see, each December I find myself contemplating the complex origins of Santa Claus.  Was he a Christian saint?  Is he the modernized, transformed winter Odin or Thor?  Is he a demi-God?  Or was he originally a reindeer shaman in Siberia?  (There are whole books dedicated to that possibility.)

The next selection cannot be embedded so I’ll link it here.  It’s Jesse L. Martin singing “Abundance and Charity” from “The Christmas Carol” musical.  I’m posting this because the Ghost of Christmas Present reminds me of An Dagda.  The actor in this video isn’t how I imagine An Dagda looking, but the Good God is all about providing for the tribe.  His cauldron makes sure everyone gets what they’re due.  Sometimes that magic manifests in us and inspires us to take care of each other.  (Perhaps there’s a little bit of An Dagda in Santa?)  He is also, in my experience, all about enjoying life.  Food (his cauldron and ability to pack it in), music (his magical harp), and sex/flirting are some of his specialties.  The actor in this clip really captures that.

http://www.youtube.com/v/t_KiHRHwaAs?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b

Here’s a classic – “The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams. It’s another one of those songs that can (should) be common ground for multi-religious families.  It captures the real meaning of this time of year – coming together as a tribe, no matter our differences, to celebrate the season and love.

http://www.youtube.com/v/n6j4TGqVl5g?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01

Finally, I couldn’t celebrate the Winter Solstice and the sun without George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.”  Ok, so it’s not what most consider a traditional holiday tune, but 1) I’m a huge Beatles fan and 2) it’s all about the sun and how its “coming” gives us happiness and reassurance – even in the cold of winter.

Join me tomorrow for the final selection!

* I totally own the dragon plush they use…

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Goodness, I’ve been really delinquent this time!  I apologize for the lateness.  As usual, I’ve been really busy working on items for the craft show this (THIS) weekend.  I also celebrated my birthday which kept me away from the computer.

Anyway, here are some Winter Solstice tunes!

First off, the Daws of ADF composed a Winter Solstice song.  If you’re an ADF member, you can see the lyrics and even listen to an audio clip!   The Daws are wonderful, musical people and I love to show off ADF’s talent.  I apologize to the non ADFers who weren’t able to sample their piece.

Second, I give you “Once Upon a December” from the movie “Anastasia.”  Ok…so the fictionalized recovery of a Russian princess isn’t particularly festive or Pagan, but I’ve come to view this song as a seasonal favorite.  It’s all about memories associated with winter.  We all have them – a song, scent, or object triggers our memories and we remember something from our past.  Sometimes it’s dreamlike.  Did it even really happen?  There can be magic to it, as in the magic of childhood we are forced to recall this time of year.

Speaking of memories…  and Russia…  I can’t help but post “Trepak” aka “The Russian Dance” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet.  It’s short but amazingly sweet.  I used to play the viola in high school and we traditionally played this every December.  Once upon a time, I could play parts of it by memory. One of these days I’ll buy a viola and this sheet music…  Anyway, I associate this with the holidays.  Really, any Nutcracker music.  Although the characters start off celebrating Christmas, the focus moves to a magical world inhabited by all sorts of spirits – outsider-like rat spirits, a plethora of fairies, and sprites associated with everything from different cultures to household sweets.

Finally, a new favorite of mine from the ever inspiring Damh the Bard – “On Midwinter’s Day.”  It’s another great song for Pagans and our more open-minded monotheistic friends!

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Sigh of Relief

After the holidays are over, I can’t help but sigh with relief. It’s a busy time, especially when you’re a Pagan from a Christian family! My parents, sister, and future brother-in-law were nice enough to come up and celebrate the Winter Solstice with the hubby and I. This past weekend being Christmas, we went down to celebrate with them. It’s a two hour drive and it can be kind of annoying, especially when you have to go through the Snow Belt and there’s freezing rain… But it’s worth it. I love seeing my family even when the occasion isn’t one I care about in a religious sense. My husband, an agnostic, remarked that he enjoyed having two celebrations. Not because of gifts, though. We’ve never lived this far from our family and friends. We miss them and love seeing them.

Truly, whatever your religion is, just being with family is the most important thing in the chill of the winter.

I hope you had a peaceful, loving holiday!

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Winter Solstice

When the stores begin to play holiday music and plaster their shelves with red and green ornaments, I can’t help but get excited.  Of course I have to admit that the sensation is very much a carry-over from my Christian upbringing, but having learned a bit about the background of Christmas and the Winter Solstice, I realize that there are several similarities and, through converting, I didn’t lose much!

There isn’t any definitive proof that the Winter Solstice was celebrated by the early Celts, however the Germanic tribes did celebrate something (Ellison 155).  Snorri Sturluson described some of the Germanic festivities in which sacrifices were made for “an easy winter” on the holiday of Winter Nights, and that sacrifices for a good crop the following year were made at Yule (Hutton 7).  Ronald Hutton inserts, however, that Sturluson may not be the best source. The Romans also celebrated a holiday around this time of year called Saturnalia.  This holiday was sacred to Saturn and was supposed to be the most popular feast of Rome (Hutton 2).  “Shops, schools, and lawcourts were closed, gambling in public was allowed, and there was general noisy rejoicing.  Presents,  especially – candles, symbols of light – were exchanged,” Ronald Hutton explains (3).  To Wiccans and many NeoPagans, who have embraced the name “Yule”, the Winter Solstice celebrates the “rebirth of the sun” as the divine child (Ellison 156).  This compares nicely to the Christian holiday of Christmas in which the birth of Jesus, a divine child, is celebrated.

Many Christmas traditions come from a Pagan background.  The Saxons are said to have introduced the Yule log and Christmas tree.  Ellison asserts that “there is no evidence that the Celts adopted this custom directly from the Saxons but it has come down to current NeoPagan practices through the English” (158).  The custom of decorating with evergreens is also old.  For example, the Romans brought greens into the temples for the celebration of Satrunalia (Hutton 2).

Within my own household, my fiancé and I have decided to use some Germanic traditions in our celebration of the Winter Solstice.  While I’m focusing on an Irish hearth culture, I also have Germanic blood and so I often find that observing the Winter Solstice is a nod to that aspect of my ancestry.  We like to set up a Yule tree and decorate a Yule log.  At  the present we don’t have a fireplace and so the Yule log is never burnt, however its symbolism is powerful enough that we include it in our festivities.    We also exchange presents.  Recently, we’ve been trying to simplify our holiday celebration.  We both feel that Christmas has been too commercialized.  Celebrating the Winter Solstice, we’ve been able to get in touch with our ancestry and learn about the simple gifts they gave.  I try to make some of my gifts, and we both try to give only a limited number of things to each other.  The gifts feel more significant that way.  We’ve also stopped sending paper cards.  We’ve realized that most people just throw them away and it seems wasteful.  Instead, we use the internet to send messages of good cheer during the Yule season and try our best to be nature-friendly.

In Upstate NY, we don’t always have a lot of snow around the Winter Solstice.  It’s a good time of year to gather evergreens for decorating because we don’t have to trudge through several feet of snow and the evergreens aren’t so wet when brought in.  I look forward to having a family one day, and possibly a grove, and making it a tradition to decorate the tree and bring in evergreens on or right before the festival.  I would also like to continue our simplified gift-giving.  The Winter Solstice is a holiday of togetherness and should act as a reminder that we can survive the dark times of winter through hard work and simplicity.  All the same, fun should be had by all to ensure that we don’t get cabin fever and to remind everyone that there is light after the darkness.

 

How I Celebrated in 2007

I attended the Yule celebration at Muin Mound on December 15th, 2007.  The ritual happened to take place on my birthday and so it felt extra significant to me.

The ritual was conducted indoors and was lead by our Senior Druid, Dennis.  A lovely ritual space was set up and included a representation of the tree, a candle for the sacred flame, a cauldron filled with water, and an offering bowl.  The ritual took on a Welsh character as we honored Cerridwen and her servant, Gwion Bach, who would receive the knowledge of her cauldron.  The ritual went very well, and it seemed especially fitting that we were receiving snow on this night.  Several attendees remarked that we were finally experiencing a “real December.”   It felt special to be warm inside, celebrating the cycle of the year, comforted by the fact that we had a feast following the ritual.

I felt that it was time for me to volunteer to do something during the ritual.  I offered to honor the Earth, so at the appropriate time I sprinkled the offering around the ritual space while chanting, “May the Earth not open up and swallow us.”  I was proud to have finally done something.

I did not have anything to offer, and I felt bad because it was my birthday and I should have, in retrospect, given something to thank the Kindreds for my life.  I shall remember to do this in the coming year, I hope.  An omen was taken, and while I remember it being positive, I do not remember exactly what it was.

Afterwards, we feasted and exchanged gifts.  Ron received a collection of Adirondack photography.  I received a Gnostic DVD on sex.  It was an amusing gift exchange and a fun Yule celebration to be sure!

 

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