Monthly Archives: December 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

That’s right. I, a Pagan, said “Merry Christmas.”

Why?  Because it’s Christmas.

Like most modern Pagans I was raised in a Christian household, celebrating Christian holidays.  To me, they are familiar and traditional (even though there were no hard and fast traditions in my family, other than tree decorating).

Now I live in a dual religion household:  Pagan and Catholic.

I celebrate Winter Solstice with a feast and a ritual to celebrate the newborn Sun God and to welcome Him to the world.

She celebrates because the days are going to start getting longer (she hates winter) but it is primarily a secular thing for her.

We both celebrate Christmas with a gift exchange (and more food.  I swear, all I do from Samhain through New Year’s is cook!)

The actual date of Christmas here varies, but will actually be on Christmas Day this year.  (Holidays were always flexible in my family:  my mother worked in a factory and would work holidays if it was offered.  The last few years it’s been even worse: between organizing around work schedules, school schedules, and family schedules I could probably orchestrate supplies and troop movements for three different countries in the same war.)

For me, Christmas is a secular celebration.  I love the decorations and the lights and even the music, (although I could do without having all of the above starting in October.  Could we please just take one holiday at a time?  Thanks!)

As for the religious aspect of Christmas, that doesn’t really crop up here.  Perhaps because she’s not especially religious, or perhaps because she is aware that Christmas was created by the early Church to draw people of other religions to Christianity by putting a holy day on top of older celebrations.

And through the centuries that followed, older Pagan traditions have been added to “Christmas” until almost all (if not all!) “Christmas traditions” are Pagan in origin.

(The Puritans actually outlawed the celebration of Christmas because it was a Pagan holiday.)

No, I’m not hating on Christmas – like I said, I love the holiday.  But I do wish that people would explore its history a bit more and not get so defensive thinking that there is a war on it.

And for those who do think there is some sort of “War on Christmas” you will be pleased to note that the holiday’s non-existent enemy is losing. I had some last-minute errands to run on Christmas Eve, and I heard “Merry Christmas” everywhere I went.  Well, except for the Post Office and she was kind of grumpy and didn’t say much of anything at all.  She wasn’t one of the regular window clerks so I’m guessing she got assigned to it for the holiday and wasn’t happy.

And, no, it didn’t bother me, and yes, I said “Merry Christmas” back to them. Like I said… it’s tradition.

So Merry Christmas everyone!

Midwinter Musings

Midwinter, Yule, Winter Solstice, Longest Night… pick one!  (In Paganism, not only is there no “one right way” there is apparently also no “one right name.”)

Am I the only person who has ever wondered how the 21st (ish) of December can be both “mid” winter and the first day of winter?  That bugged me long before I found my way home to Paganism (as did the summer solstice = mid-summer/first day of summer) but once I learned about the Wheel of the Year it suddenly all made sense.  Well, not the “mid” and “first” bit, but…

But… I found an approach to the seasons that made sense to me.

Samhain: Summer’s End (and the start of winter)
Yule: Mid-Winter
Imbolc: the start of Spring
Ostara: Mid-Spring
Beltane: the start of Summer
Litha: Mid-Summer
Lughnassadh: the start of fall
Mabon: Mid-Fall
Samhain:  Summer’s (Fall’s) End.

So, my seasons are a little off-beat compared to the rest of the world, but so am I.

I’m currently giving semi-serious consideration to the idea of staying up all night to welcome the dawn on mid-winter’s day.  I don’t have anything planned for the next day so I can be a zombie and no one would notice.  (I’m pretty much a hermit so it’s a fair bet that no one would notice anyhow.)

Meanwhile, I thought I’d leave you with a little seasonal music:

“On Midwinter’s Day” by Damh the Bard:

“Santa Claus Is Pagan Too” by Emerald Rose:

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams:

Please share any Winter Solstice songs that you like — I’d love to find more!

List Magic

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year when, despite your best intentions, the number of things to do and the number of days to get them done are constantly at war with one another.

I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do between now and the end of the year, which means it’s time for a little List Magic.

Seriously, lists are magical — there should be an actual “school” of spell casting based on lists, like candle magic, sex magic, knot magic… list magic.

How does it work?

Well, you start with a list.  For ongoing things that need to be done daily or nearly daily I have a Word doc on my computer.  For more short term lists (errands to run that day, for example) I prefer a paper one.

And sometimes the two lists get combined into one and sorted out later.

So, my current list of things to do by the end of the year might look something like this:

put together yearly calendar
Weekly Pagan Coffee Night
get gold spray paint
check to see if I have regular blue paint
ornaments for in ornaments
make ornaments
Diet Pepsi
clementines
24s (this really does mean something to me, honest!)
post office
library
memoir group
Sue’s graduation
writers’ group
socks
grocery list for Yule baking
eggnog
finish Book One of The Other Mages
get Sanguine printed
first edit on Sanguine
get book 5 of The Academy of the Accord printed
print outline for bk 5
find editing bag (seriously? how do you lose a large bright red and black bag?)
White Elephant
read for Seidh group
Weekly Pagan Coffee Night
books for Becky
stuff for Caro
sign for library

That’s all that I can think of off the top of my head, although I know there is probably more. (Weekly Pagan Coffee Night is on there twice because it meets two more times this month.)

The list looks long — and intimidating. (It’s especially intimidating because I know that there are some things I’ve forgotten to put on it, but that’s the great thing about list magic — it is endlessly flexible.)

So, I have my list.  I can approach it in one of two ways.  I can leave it as is and just cross stuff off (or use strike-through if I keep it in Word) or I can prioritize it either by importance or immediacy (when stuff needs to happen).

It doesn’t really matter how or if you organize it, but I usually like to organize it a bit more as it gives me a better grip on things. (For example, I would make a list of the places I need to go and things I need to do and get while I’m out today, and another list of things that are happening/need to be done soon, and another list of more distant deadlines.)

Once you have your list (or lists) the key is crossing stuff off of it.

If you’re keeping it on the computer, don’t just delete the completed items, use the strike through. (With a hand-written list there may come a time when you need to rewrite it so that you can better see what you still need to do, but before you dispose of the old list compare the two and see how far you’ve come.)  If you delete things, yes, the list gets shorter, but you don’t get the same visual satisfaction of seeing how many things you’ve accomplished.

And here is the important part:  everything that you mark off of the list is an accomplishment.

Everything.

And that’s where the magic comes in.

Everything that you cross off of the list is one less thing hovering over you.  One less thing to worry about.

And one more thing that you have gained control over, one more step taken toward gaining control of your temporarily out of control life.

If you’re the sort who likes the drama of ritual — or if it’s been a particularly nasty list — you might enjoy tearing it into long strips when it is finished, or burning it, or even giving a satisfied smirk as  you delete the file from your computer as you free yourself from the tyranny of too much to do and too little time to do it.

To Walk a Pagan Path

I started this blog because it occurred to me that my spiritual life was getting lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day concerns of modern life.  With everything else that I was doing it always seemed as if spirituality got pushed to a back burner, or was mufti-tasked with something else, and not given my full attention.

And that bothered me.

So, since I was “too busy” for religion, I took on something else – this blog.  It at least got me thinking about my path on a more in-depth and consistent level, even if I hadn’t actually increased the doing of it.

And shortly thereafter I started going to a weekly gathering of Pagans.  No workings, just getting together and socializing:  more attention to be paid to my path as I participated in and listened to conversations that flowed around me.

I was, however, still not quite succeeding at creating a daily practice.  Oh, sure – I was more focused on my religion, was devoting more time, energy, and though to it, but something was still missing.

Enter Alaric Albertsson’s book, To Walk a Pagan Path: Practical Spirituality for Every Day.

Hmmm, I thought when the Pagan Coffee Night’s group page announced that he would be there doing a book signing.  This sounds like something I could use.

So I bought a copy.

And, instead of relegating it to a shelf for “later” I read it.

And I took notes.

And I have added it to my list of recommended reading material.

This book is exactly what I was looking for, even though I didn’t know I was looking for it.

This isn’t just a “how to” book, or even a “this is how I do it” book – it is a “Do It” book.   In the very first chapter Alaric challenges you to stop reading and start doing, by dedicating yourself to the work of “Hal Siddu” – of developing traditions that bring together the body, mind, and spirit.

The rest of the first chapter is devoted to seven steps to assist you in that goal:
Connecting With Spirit
Creating Sacred Space
Creating Sacred Time
Sacralizing Daily Activities
Making Regular Sacrifices/Offerings (Observing regular (monthly) rituals)
Observing the Holy Tides (Wheel of the Year)
Finding Your Folk

Chapter Two talks about creating your own sacred calendar, based on the path that you personally follow and what resonates with you, with a strong emphasis on understanding why you celebrate the days that you do.  He gives examples of sacred days from various traditions, not only from his own path.

Chapter Three goes into daily devotions: everything from greeting the gods in the morning to meal time blessings to bedtime prayers, and everything in between as well, truly drawing the sacred into every facet of your day and making it a part of your daily life.

Chapter Four talks about familiars, discussing the pros and cons of various species as well as the historical accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the traditional “witch’s familiar.”  He also gives tips for training your familiar to participate in a circle.

Chapter Five, “Leaf and Fruit,” begins introducing you to ways to connect with the cycle of the year, in part through planting, tending, and harvesting a garden, or at least a few vegetables.  (I think I’m going to try to grow leaf lettuce and radishes in my planters next year.)

This theme continues in Chapter Six, “Bark and Branch” with ways to honor trees and woodland deities and spirits.

“The Birds and the Bees” (Chapter Seven) returns to the concept of knowing where your food comes from with a lengthy discussion of keeping hens and bees. (I know you were expecting it to be about something else.  Don’t try to deny it!)

Chapter Eight has some great recipes, making it near and dear to this Kitchen Witch’s heart.

Chapter Nine covers crafting items to be used in ritual:  candles, incense, corn dolls, even a scare crow – including how to make one for smaller spaces.  If I do plant lettuce and radishes in my planter boxes next year I am definitely making scarecrows to guard them.

The final chapter covers a variety of Yuletide traditions, and, of course, gives you suggestions and ideas on creating ones for your own sacred calendar.

The entire book is filled with humor, personal experiences and anecdotes, along with factual information presented in a way that is never dry.   This isn’t just a book that I’m going to recommend to others — it is one that I am going to keep and use as a reference for a long time to come.