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Posts Tagged ‘celebration’

This year, in addition to the Yule ritual we’ll be doing tomorrow night with our little study group, I’m planning to loosely follow along with Three Cranes Grove for their “Yule Along”. It’s a set of 12 “feasts” between the solstice and the new year, intended to bring reflection and celebration of the season. I like the idea a lot, and though I’ll be traveling for part of it, I definitely want to do some of these activities.

This is what they have suggested, as well as my plans for each day:

  • 12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer (Woden) – I’ll do an offering to the Wild Hunt (mostly propitiatory – while I honor the Hunt, I don’t want them hanging around my house!)
  • 12/20 Mother’s night/Idesa/Solstice vigil (to be posted that day) – Yule Ritual to the Idesa and Frige, with bonus Solstice Vigil Candles lit from the setting sun, to be burned throughout Yule. Opportunity for oathmaking here; I am considering an oath towards this new study group, to solidify my commitment to them.
  • 12/21 Solstice Day – Baking! Lighting candles! Hooray for the Sun!
  • 12/22 Nature Spirits – Offerings to the nature spirits
  • 12/23 Feast of Fools – Not sure yet what to do here. This is typically about role reversal, but I may just do something silly with my husband/friends.
  • 12/24 Alfar and housewights – housecleaning and offerings to the spirits of my home
  • 12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – Presents! Hooray!
  • 12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – Celebrating being warm with my family.
  • 12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – More presents, this time with extended family. I need to figure out how to work evergreens into this.
  • 12/28 God/desses of the household (Frige) – Knitting! Lots of knitting, as I’m working on two big projects right now.
  • 12/29 Shining ones – Offerings to Thunor, Frige, and Ing Frea
  • 12/30 Bringing in the boar (Ing Frea, deities/spirits concerning oaths) – Roast beast! (Roast beast is a feast I don’t mind in the least!) I’ll make pot roast and consider my new year’s resolutions and any oaths I am considering making.
  • 12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – Party! Big party at my house, with friends and games and fun and champagne. I’ll initiate a conversation about resolutions, and maybe do some divination regarding the new year.
  • 1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time – Clean up, take down, and put away all the holiday stuffs. Get ready to go back to work, cook lunches, and make some pre-prepared meals. Basically return to the normal routine.

Some of these will be a little difficult, but I think planning for them in advance will make sure I stick to it. I love the idea of making Yule a “season” – a time of feasting, sacrifice, and honoring the various Gods and spirits of my path. I think this is a fun way to do it, and it means a little bit of sacred time each day, instead of trying to cram it all into one day and getting burnt out.

What are you doing to celebrate the Solstice/Yule? Any family traditions you have that you’d like to share? I’m always looking for new traditions to borrow and try out!

Blessed Yule!

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Midsummer is coming up at the end of this week (or Litha, or the Summer Solstice, however you’d prefer).  Here are a few things you can do on the Summer Solstice/Midsummer to keep that Druidic spirit alive – without necessarily doing a formal ritual:

  • Get up before sunrise and go somewhere to watch the sun come up. Then, stay up until sunset and watch the sun go down. It’s the longest day of the year – so honor the WHOLE day. (Yes, that means getting up at the ass crack of dawn. It won’t hurt for one day.) If you can do this at your home, lighting incense to mark the passage of the sun is a nice touch.
  • Grill something! Especially since a lot of places frown on outdoor bonfires, a grill is a good substitute, and you can make incense offerings to the coals.
  • Eat fresh, local, seasonal produce. Depending on where you are, this will vary widely. Here in the Swamp, that means sweet corn, tomatoes, beans, and squash, but berries are on their way out of season here already, as it’s getting quite hot. We’re just starting to get good peaches here too, but they really need another month. Watermelons, however, are in their prime.
  • Charge water with the power of the sun – place water in a bowl (covered lightly to keep out flies – I use a white flour sack towel) and let it sit in the sunlight all day (you’ll have to move it). Then use this water in rituals where you need a little extra oomph – I like to use Sun Water in my well, since I’m not close to natural fresh water that’s acceptable to use in my Well without endangering my cats! (It’s all mucky brackish stuff around here)
  • Make a Sun Wreath (or bouquet) – gather as many sunny flowers as you can, fresh, dried or silk all work, and arrange them as decoration in your home. I like to keep a very brightly colored yellow and orange wreath on my front door during this season. This is also appropriate altar decor, especially if you’re doing a ritual to honor Sunna or Sol.
  • Cook with fresh, summery herbs – basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage are all thriving at this time of year. In some places parsley and cilantro are in season as well. Cooking with fresh, summery herbs always helps me connect to the season. I especially like making a salad with fresh basil and fresh ripe tomatoes, with a little olive oil and salt. Yum!
  • Make Sun Cookies! These are regular sugar cookies (of whatever recipe you like) cut out with a sun-shaped cookie cutter. Or just in big rounds with yellow frosting. These can be shared with the office for a special treat, and everyone will love you for bringing them sugar.
  • Wear sunny colors – on purpose and with purpose. Your wardrobe doesn’t have to be part of your special celebrations, but if (like me) you’ll be in a cubicle for most of the Solstice day, wearing something sunny – and getting outside at lunch for a few minutes – can help keep me in a good frame of mind.

Any and all of these things can be done without anyone looking twice at what you’re doing, but they all honor the strength of the sun at this time of year, and help keep you in the spirit of the Solstice. I’ll be doing a number of these, along with my actual celebrated Solstice ritual, and will probably spread them out over a few days to remember that this is as much a season as it is a specific date.

Blessed Midsummer!

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Yule is the festival that occurs on the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year. It is generally celebrated on December 21, though the actual Solstice may happen a day or two earlier or later, depending on how the calendar lines up with the astronomical phenomenon of the Solstice.

The primary Neopagan celebration at Yule is that of the rebirth of the Sun. The Goddess-cycle says that She has been pregnant since the Spring, and the God, her lover, was slain at the harvest, ushering in the darkest part of the year. Now He is reborn and the light returns to the world.  This is also seen as the time when the newly birthed Oak King defeats his twin and rival, the Holly King, to rule for the coming “light” half of the year (the two will switch roles at Midsummer).

Common celebrations include bonfires and all-night-vigils to welcome the sunrise after the longest night of the year. Also common is gift-giving, feasting, lighting lots of candles to celebrate the return of light, and decorations of evergreens, to show the promise of returning spring and green things. This is the turning point of the year from dark to light, and though the coldest days of winter are still ahead, the increasing sunlight is a sign that spring will come again.

There is not a particularly notable celebration in the Celtic hearth culture for the Winter Solstice, though the Ancestors would still have been important at this time of year. In the Gaulish hearth, the midwinter feast of Devoriuros was a celebration of plenty, as well as of the renewal promised by the returning light. The Coligny calendar clearly marks the winter solstice, so there would have been some notation that the longest night had passed. (Our Own Druidry, 62-64)

I celebrate many of the secular traditions in North America that go along with this holiday, many of which have ties to the Neopagan (and older) customs of this time of year. I particularly enjoy baking cookies, giving gifts, hanging evergreens, and lots of candle light to illuminate the darkness. I also celebrate this holiday (and it’s Christian equivalent) multiple times, since each part of my family will have its own gift-giving and celebratory gathering, with a big feast as well.

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I do a lot of work to bring my Druidry into my life in a way that I can be happy with how it’s incorporated but also keep a very low profile. This runs me into trouble occasionally, but most prominently around the holidays.

My family is extremely Christian (they think being non-Christian is grounds for divorce, among other things), and so I have to smile and nod a lot, and let them continue to think what they want about me and what I believe. I need their support due to physical and mental health reasons, and I really value having a close relationship with them, so that arrangement doesn’t bother me most of the time. The good outweighs the discomfort, and it’s usually easy to dodge religious conversations or to talk generically about hope and blessings.

But around the holidays, it gets troublesome. I can sit through a Christmas Eve service without too much fuss (just like I sit through an Easter service every year as well), but it always feels a little hollow. I haven’t been struck down yet, but I am still not really comfortable in church, even if I love the Christmas carols.

I want to celebrate the Winter Solstice, to bring evergreens into my home as a reminder that the world will become green again. To decorate with the symbols of winter and nature. I can put up with Santa and the secular western Christmas holiday, but my family always gives me nativity sets and asks why I don’t have the advent wreath up.

I know that a lot of the symbols of this holiday are cross-cultural or have become secular. Many of the “traditional” Christian symbols, like Christmas trees, are borrowed from earlier Pagan ones and have become acceptable as part of the secular celebration of Christmas. Even if the actual Christmas Tree is a relatively young tradition, bringing evergreens into the house is quite old. Even the celebration of Christmas in December is a bid to appropriate an existing holiday and Christianize it.

Knowing all that, unfortunately, doesn’t help much with the practical applications. I’m expected to send Christmas cards. I use the excuse of not wanting to have to send out two different cards to send a very nature oriented, non-Christian-specific card, but it’s still seen as buying into their religious tradition. In return, I get a mailbox full of Jesus cards that I don’t want to put up on my mantle.

On some level, I appreciate being a closeted Pagan. It stretches my imagination, and I enjoy using symbols and items from Paganism to make the celebration of holidays my own in a way that other people will enjoy without knowing that they’re being Pagan.

I also truly love the decorations and celebrations this time of year. They give me the warm fuzzies, and I love participating in those traditions with my family. I love putting up holly and evergreens, pinecones and red ribbon, cranberries, oranges, and candles. I love having a tree decorated with white lights, red ribbon, birds, animals, and little nature scenes. My family has even bought into it, buying me new “Winter Woodland” ornaments for my tree every year (just as they buy snowmen for my aunt and Santas for my mom and snowflakes for my cousin). I even love a lot of Christmas music, though not the tinned, Christmas-Pop stuff they play in stores on eternal repeat. And cookies are pan-religious, right?

It’s easy to decorate for fall or spring, but for some reason decorating for Yule/Christmas is the one time that I feel conflicted, no matter how much I love and cherish having those decorations up in my house.

Even knowing that Yule/Winter Solstice and Christmas are pretty well intertwined, I still feel a bit like a bad Pagan. There are so many good, non-religious things to celebrate during the “Holidays” (which is one reason I love Thanksgiving so much), so I question why it bothers me so much. I can celebrate rebirth, family, warmth, hope, joy, blessings, and the new year without ascribing to any religion at all. I’m not sure why I still feel isolated by my beliefs in the midst of all the secular good vibes.

Even with a beautifully decorated tree in my living room and a hand-made wreath on my door, it puts a damper on my celebration to feel separated like I do. My Pagan beliefs are sustaining and meaningful, but I’m missing out on the community aspect of celebration. I think I’m just missing feeling unified with my family this time of year. Perhaps I should look into doing Grove work (though I’ll be out of town for the local Grove’s Yule celebration). I like being a solitary, but I also like working in a community, and this time of year I crave that community aspect more than others. (Odd for it also being a very introspective time of year in the Wheel.)

I don’t know that there’s an easy solution to all this. I’m obviously still going to decorate, and still going to celebrate on my own time. I’m still going to make cookies (in the shape of holly leaves and spirals), eat oranges to celebrate the sunshine, hang stockings, light candles, and give gifts.

Maybe I just need to work on accepting where I am, and just let myself love the holidays for what they are.

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I hope everyone in the US has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Be well, and may your blessings today be many, and your relationships strengthened (with whomever you decide to celebrate, even if it’s just between you and your Gods)!

And if you’re not in the US, have a wonderful Thursday! I’ll eat a piece of pie in your honor!

Though I won’t have time or space to do a full ritual today, my hearth shrine will be very very busy with cooking and baking and burning candles. I love the energy of a bunch of people making a meal, and in my kitchen, there’s lots of room for people to cook together. I have lots of things to be thankful for, and my family (including my inlaws) are definitely on that list. Also I am hugely thankful for the medical care I’ve received over the last three years, that has brought me to the point where I am functioning like a well person again.

On a slightly more serious note, I hope you will choose not to shop on Thanksgiving, seeing as it’s the one holiday in our secular calendar that’s designed to be about being thankful for what you already have, and Friday will begin the Season of Buy All The Things. I’m saddened that retail workers will have to be at work for Thanksgiving – one of the few days they traditionally are allowed off at the same time as their families – and I hope this “experiment” by the big box stores of having huge “pre Black Friday” sales is a giant bust. Shopping can wait for one day. (Or if you must shop, do so online!)

I know that a holiday about being thankful isn’t a holiday that sells much stuff, but there have been Christmas/Holiday decorations and music playing since November 1 where I live. Let’s have a break from the commercialism for a day and rest and be thankful, even if it’s for very small things.

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