Spirit Message of the Moment – Ideas To Celebrate Yule 2013

CELEBRATING THE PAGAN SABBAT: YULE
In many Pagan and Wiccan celebrations, often the cornerstone of a succe205537_450257608364328_1060900443_nssful Sabbat is the food. Yule is a time of rich, delicious cooking for many of us, so start planning your menu ahead of time. Open up your hearth and home for your guests, and once you’re seated at your meal, take a moment to be thankful for all the bounty and blessings you have before you this Yule season!

Food Blessings, Pagan and Wiccan Style
Many religions celebrate the consumption of food with some sort of prayer of thanksgiving. Many Pagans and Wiccans believe that not only should we thank the gods for our food, but also the earth and the food itself. After all, if you’re eating plants or meat, something had to die so that you could have a meal. It seems rude not to thank your food for its sacrifice. Any of the following may be said over a meal, a Cakes and Ale ceremony, or any other event where food is served. Feel free to include the names of the deities of your tradition, of you prefer.

• This Simple Meal Blessing offers thanks to the God and Goddess for a meal.

• A Prayer to the Earth shows gratitude for the planet’s bounty.

• If you’re eating a meal that once walked around, offer a prayer Celebrating Meat.

Invite the Gods to dine with you.

Make an Offering of a bit of your food.


Basic Wassail Recipe

Hot WassailWassail was originally a word that meant to greet or salute someone — groups would go out Wassailing on cold evenings, and when they approached a door would be offered a mug of warm cider or ale. Over the years, the tradition evolved to include mixing eggs with alcohol and asperging the crops to ensure fertility. While this recipe doesn’t include eggs, it sure is good, and it makes your house smell beautiful for Yule!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Ingredients:
• 1 Gallon apple cider
• 2 C. cranberry juice
• 1/2 C honey
• 1/2 C sugar
• 2 oranges
• Whole cloves
• 1 apple, peeled and diced
• Allspice
• Ginger
• Nutmeg
• 3 cinnamon sticks (or 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon)
• 1/2 C – 1 C brandy (optional)

Preparation: Set your crockpot to its lower setting, and pour apple cider, cranberry juice, honey and sugar in, mixing carefully. As it heats up, stir so that the honey and sugar dissolve. Stud the oranges with the cloves, and place in the pot (they’ll float). Add the diced apple. Add allspice, ginger and nutmeg to taste — usually a couple of tablespoons of each is plenty. Finally, snap the cinnamon sticks in half and add those as well.

Cover your pot and allow to simmer 2 – 4 hours on low heat. About half an hour prior to serving, add the brandy if you choose to use it. Buttered RumButtered rum was a popular recipe in colonial America, and it’s easy to see why — it’s GOOD. You can brew this up in your crockpot, ladle out a nice big mug and sit by the fire on a chilly winter evening. It’s the perfect warm drink for Yule. If you leave out the rum, your kids can enjoy it too (here’s a tip — when your little one wants to have a Harry Potter party, make a rum-free pot of this recipe and call it butter beer).

Ingredients:
• 2 Quarts apple juice
• 2 C firmly packed brown sugar
• 1 stick butter (use the real stuff, not margarine)
• 3 Tbs. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. ground cloves
• 1 tsp. nutmeg
• 2 C. your favorite rum
• Refrigerated whipped dessert topping
• Cinnamon sticks and nutmeg for garnish

Preparation: Warm up the apple juice and brown sugar in a pot. Add the butter (dice up the stick before you put it in there, so it’ll melt faster). Stir until the butter is melted. Add the spices and the rum. Cover the pot, and allow to simmer on low for 2 – 4 hours. Ladle into mugs for serving. Top each with a dollop of whipped topping and a cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.

3799_10151600879139616_1867875314_nSunshine Skillet
When the sun comes up on Yule morning, there’s nothing quite like it. If your family celebrates with a solar ritual, after you’re done, head to the kitchen for a big breakfast. This sunny skillet dish is full of good stuff — if you’re vegetarian, simply substitute something else for the sausage, or leave the meat out altogether. This is fabulous with some nice warm biscuits and gravy.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
• 2 Tbs. butter (use the good stuff, not margarine)
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1/2 C shiitake mushrooms, chopped
• 2 C southern-style hashbrown potatoes, thawed
• 6 eggs, beaten
• 2 C sausage, browned
• 2 C cheddar cheese, grated
• Fresh rosemary and sage
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 C Asiago cheese, grated
• 1 green onion, chopped
• 1 small tomato, diced

Preparation: Preheat your oven to 350. Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions, sautéing until they are opaque. Add potatoes, and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. In a buttered or greased casserole dish, spread the potato mixture around to evenly cover the bottom. Mix the eggs, sausage, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper together in a small bowl, and then pour over potatoes. Bake in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. About ten minutes into the bake time, sprinkle the Asaigo cheese on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. To serve, dish onto plates and garnish with tomatoes and onions.

Suggested Readings

All Above Excerpts authored by Patti Wigington

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405368_10150500037554734_1317162623_nMESSAGE FROM SPIRITBLOGGER
A warm welcome to December and wish to you for a bright and merry Winter Solstice this year. In my search to find spiritual significance for this Winter Solstice 2013, I kept thinking about the concepts of building and recreating life; which, always seems to give us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and constantly reshape and refine our lives to best align with our highest soul self. This involves a bit of re-imagining who we are at times and then manifesting who we are meant to be, as we embrace our whole selves. I found an online article called “Winter Solstice – Beauty in the Darkness” by Sara Dawn I wanted to share with you. Perhaps it might resonate with where you’ve either been, or currently find yourself in this day, or in this very moment. Thank you for all your messages this past year, good wishes, and support on both the blog and Facebook page. Bright Wishes To You All for a Meaningful Winter Solstice.
– Angela

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“Yes, there is beauty here in the shadows of ourselves. There is great beauty in the darkness. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Since neolithic times it has been celebrated and honored as a sacred time of renewal and rebirth. As the earth continues on her magical orbit the days now grow longer and nights shorter. The sun is dawning after the increasing darkness of winter.  The Winter Solstice is nature’s physical equivalent of a spiritual awakening and enlightenment.

whitecandleMy wish for you this Winter Solstice is that you awaken to the sheer brilliance of your being, the very essence of Life that you are, your inner most nature. And that with this new-found strength you delve deep into the darkness, deep into your shadows and fears, and shine on them the light of awareness with love and compassion. Nothing is more powerful or bigger than this light and love. Like the sun, the light of awareness and love overcomes any darkness. When we dare to face our deepest, darkest fears and overcome them we can truly experience the ecstasy of life. We become confident and stronger. We discover ourselves and we know who we are. We begin to trust life and know that it is a force that is both for us and within us. The Winter Solstice marks this triumph of our quest for a greater good. It is a journey we all have the opportunity to take, many times in our lives.

If you are stuck in any area of your life or if you are in pain, the invitation and my wish for you here is to take that stuck energy, take that pain and compost it into something beautiful! Like the earth breaks down decaying, useless matter and turns it into fuel for life and growth, take your shadows and darkness and use them to create life and beauty. The Winter Solstice is a great time to realize this.”
– Sara Dawn

scroll2“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson

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Spirit Message of the Moment – Celebrate Spring – Ostara 2013

OSTARA – THE SPRING EQUINOX
Spring has finally arrived! March has roared in like a lion, and if we’re really lucky, it will roll out like a lamb. Meanwhile, on or around the 21st of the month, we have Ostara to celebr417698_337457816374324_2025417188_nate. It’s the time of the vernal equinox of you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s a true marker that Spring has come. There are many different ways you can celebrate this Sabbat, depending on your tradition. First, you might want to read up on: Ostara History

Spring Folklore and Customs
Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal as the earth comes back to life. Why not celebrate the themes of the season with a little bit of spring magic?

From Egg-Laying Bunnies to Mad March Hares
Spring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature’s fertility goes a little crazy. The rabbit — for good reason — is often associated with fertility magic and sexual energy.

So how did we get the notion that a rabbit comes around and lays colored eggs in the spring? The character of the “Easter bunny” first appeared in 16th-century German writings, which said that if well-behaved children built a nest out of their caps or bonnets, they wo67382_483721251677082_336937576_nuld be rewarded with colored eggs. This legend became part of American folklore in the 18th century, when German immigrants settled in the eastern U.S.

In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a specific species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates (go figure) and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

Ever hear the phrase “mad as a March hare”? There’s a reason for that — this is the time of year when rabbits tend to go a bit bonkers. Although the phrase itself is often attributed to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland adventures, it actually appears much earlier. A similar expression is found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in the Friar’s Tale:

For though this man were wild as is a hare,
To tell his evil deeds I will not spare.

Later, it appears in both the writings of Sir Thomas More, and in a 16th-century book of proverbs.

So how can you channel this frantic, fertile energy into a magical working? Let’s look at some possible uses for some of that “mad March hare” energy in magic.

  • Fertility rituals: place a rabbit skin under your bed to bring fertility and abundance to your sexual activities. If you’re opposed to the use of real fur, use some other symbol of 431971_445949118758549_1234673876_nthe rabbit that you’re more comfortable with.
  • The obvious one — a rabbit’s foot is said to bring good luck to those who carry it, although one might argue that it’s not so lucky for the rabbit.
  • To bring yourself boundless energy, carry a talisman engraved or painted with a rabbit’s image.
  • If you have wild rabbits or hares that live in your yard, leave them an offering of lettuce, shredded carrots, cabbage, or other fresh greens. In some magical traditions, the wild rabbit is associated with the deities of spring.
  • Rabbits and hares are able to go to ground quickly if in danger. Add a few rabbit hairs to a witch bottle for protection magic.
  • In some legends, rabbits and hares are the messengers of the underworld — after all, they come and go out of the earth as they please. If you’re doing a meditation that involves an underworld journey, call upon the rabbit to be your guide.

Correspondences: Spring Flower Magic
As spring arrives, our gardens begin to bud and eventually bloom. For hundreds of years, t312301_518339054855101_1553234333_nhe plants that we grow have been used in magic. Flowers in particular are often connected with a variety of magical uses. Now that spring is here, keep an eye out for some of these flowers around you, and consider the different magical applications they might have.

  • Crocus: This flower is one of the first you’ll see in the spring, and it’s often associated with newly blooming love. The crocus is also known to enhance visions and bring about intuitive dreams.
  • Daffodil: The bright petals of the daffodil are typically found in shades of white, yellow or even pale orange. This flower is associated with love and fertility — place fresh ones in your home to bring about abundance. Wear this flower close to your heart to draw love and luck.
  • Dandelion: The leaf of the dandelion is used for healing, purificaiton, and ritual cleansing. To bring positive change about, plant dandelions in the northwest corner of your property. The bright yellow flowers can be used in divination, or placed in a sachet to draw good energy your way.
  • Echinacea: Also called purple coneflower, this garden mainstay adds a little bit of magical “oomph” to charmes and sachets. Use it for prosperity related workings. Burn the dried flowers in incense, and use on your altar during ritual as an offering to deities.
  • Goldenseal: This sunny yellow flower is often found growing in thCrocus6e wild, alongside roads and in fields. Use it in money spells, or for business dealings. Work it into charms connected to matters of financial gain or legal issues.
  • Hibiscus: This lusty flower incites passion — use it to attract love or lust, or for prophetic dreams about your lover. Burn in incense, or carry in a sachet to bring love your way.
  • Hyacinth: This flower was named for Hyakinthos, a Greek divine hero who was beloved by Apollo, so it’s sometimes considered the patron herb of homosexual men. Hyacinth is also known to promote peaceful sleep, and guards against nightmares. Carry in an amulet to help heal a broken heart or to ease grief when a loved one dies.
  • Lily: The Easter lily or Tiger lily is associated with all kinds of Spring connections — fertility, rebirth, renewal and abundance.
  • Narcissus: Named for another Greek figure, the Narcissus helps promote polarity and harmony. Its calming vibrations bring about tranqviolet-flowersuility and inner peace.
  • Tulip: The tulip appears in many different colors and varieties, but is typically connected to prosperity. You can use the different colored variations in color magic — use a dark strain such as Queen of the Night for full moon rituals, or bright red flowers for love magic.
  • Violet: In Roman myth, the first violet sprung from the spilled blood of the god Attis, who killed himself for Cybele, the mother goddess. However, today the violet is associated with tranquility and peace. The leaf offers protection from evil, and can be sewn into a pillow or sachet for a new baby. Carry the petals with you to bring about luck and enhance nighttime magic.

Important: Remember that some plants can be toxic to pets. Before you plant or pick any of these, be sure to check to make sure it won’t be harmful to your furry companions. A great resource to check is on the ASPCA website at Toxic & Non-Toxic Plants.

Suggested Reading

Although for Wiccans and Pagans this time of year is known as Ostara, many other cultures and belief systems embrace the Spring Equinox as a time of celebration. Learn about some of the many holidays and festivals held around the world. Read Full Article.

Article Excerpts By Patti Wigington

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Email me at angelsoulstorms@gmail.com

 

 

Spirit Message of the Moment – Celebrate Winter Solstice 2012

Hold a Family Yule Log Ceremony
“For people of nearly any religious background, the time of the winter solstice is a time when we gather with family and loved ones. For Pagans and Wiccans, it’s often celebrated as Yule, but there aFirebonfirere literally dozens of ways you can enjoy the season. If your family enjoys ritual, you can welcome back the sun at Yule with this simple winter ceremony. The first thing you’ll need is a Yule Log. If you make it a week or two in advance, you can enjoy it as a centerpiece prior to burning it in the ceremony. You’ll also need a fire, so if you can do this ritual outside, that’s even better. As the Yule Log burns, all members of the family (and friends) should surround it, forming a circle.

Here’s How:

  1. If you normally cast a circle, do so at this time. This first section is for the adults – if there is more than one grownup, they can take turns saying the lines, or say them together:

The Wheel has turned once more, and
the earth has gone to sleep.
The leaves are gone, the crops have returned to the ground.
On this darkest of nights, we celebrate the light.
Tomorrow, the sun will return,
its journey continuing as it always does.
Welcome back, warmth.
Welcome back, light.
Welcome back, life.

  1. The entire group now moves deosil – clockwise, or sunwise – around the fire. When each member has returned to his or her original position, it is time for the children to add their part. This section can be divided amongst the children, so that each gets a chance to speak.

Shadows go away, darkness is no more,
as the light of the sun comes back to us.
Warm the earth.
Warm the ground.
Warm the sky.
Warm our hearts.
Welcome back, sun.

  1. Finally, each member of the group should take a moment to tell the others one thing that they are thankful for about their family – things like “I am happy that Mom cooks us such wonderful food,” or “I’m proud of Alex because he helps people who need it.” When everyone has had a chance to speak, walk sunwise once more around the fire, and end the rite. If possible, save a bit of this year’s Yule log to add to the fire for next year’s ceremony.

chocolate yule-logFamily and Friends

Nothing says holiday celebration quite like getting together with the people you love. Learn about gifts, decorating, money-saving, and why it’s perfectly okay for Wiccans to have a big green tree full of lights!

Suggested Reading

By Patti Wigington

Wish Ritual for the New Year
Place a piece of holly bush on your altar for the Yule celebration, in keeping with Pagan traVariegated-Holly-Bush-821312dition. After the celebration, before dismissing the Quarters and taking down the Circle, write down a wish or wishes on pieces of parchment paper and tie them to the holly bush branches on your altar. You can write down as few or many wishes as you desire. However try to keep it simple. Bury the holly bush limb with your wishes attached to it during the next full moon, giving thanks to the Lord and Lady, to assure that your wishes will be realized during the coming year.

Email Spiritblogger: angelsoulstorms@gmail.com

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Spirit Message of the Moment – Celebrating The Pagan Holiday Mabon 2012

THE MEANING OF MABON
“The Harvest surrounds us. The bounty of Summer, the fruit of our labor, is ripe and hanging heavy on the vine. The theme for this Holiday is abundance and thanksgiving, rightfully so, as Mabon is the second of the harvest holidays and the most productive, and labor intensive, of the three. In many places, this harvest marks the peak of the garden harvest and the beginning of the fruit harvest, especially of grapes and apples. Due to the grape harvest and the nature of wine making, this is also a wine celebration, as last year’s vintage is finally able to be enjoyed and a new batch is now being started.

This day is also the Autumnal Equinox, a day when day and night are equal, balanced. From here on out the days will be shorter, the nights longer, the Winter that much closer. A chill in the air, frost on the grass, these mark the entrance of the spiders into our homes, a desperate effort to escape the cold and perhaps survive a little longer.

Within these few characteristics of Mabon, there is an underlying theme: connection. Who is it that we worked so hard with to create the abundance we now enjoy and pull in, but our community, those with whom we are most intimately connected. Our family, our friends, they are our community and they are the ones who celebrate all of our joys with us, with whom we give thanks and of whom we are thankful for. Even the entrance of the spiders into our homes, taking up residence in the corners where they will happily take care of any biting insects, echoes this theme of connection, this time to the larger community. The spiders remind us that we are never fully removed from Nature, even when we hide ourselves away in our climate controlled homes, surrounded by technology and “proof” of our superiority over the natural world.

The energy of the Autumnal Equinox spills over, and at this time when there is so much, we find ourselves pulled to share the abundance with those around us. At this time when Day and Night are equal, so, too, are all people equal; divisions and barriers are taken down, and we are reminded that we are all the same and we are all truly members of the same community.

It’s all cause and effect. When we start to acknowledge our connections, that we are not separate, it is then that we notice the Community to which we belong and notice just how far the breadth of that Community stretches. We notice our place in the scheme of things, and this leads to compassion, to the desire to share what we have with those around us. This sacred day reminds us of the need for community, the blessing of community, and the obligations we have as members of a community.”

Article by Lady Althaea

Spirit Message of the Day – Celebrate Summer Solstice 2012

THE PAGAN SABBAT – LITHA
THE FIRST DAY OF SUMMER: The Summer Solstice
“Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere on June 20, 2012, at 7:09 P.M. (EDT). Here’s more about the first day of summer—the summer solstice—plus, facts, folklore, and some sensational summer photos!Each year, the timing of the solstice depends on when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator. This occurs annually on June 20 or June 21 in North America, depending on your time zone.

The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice).

In temperate regions, we notice that the Sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer. In the winter, just the opposite occurs: The Sun is at its southernmost point and is low in the sky. Its rays hit the Northern Hemisphere at an oblique angle, creating the feeble winter sunlight.

The Sun is directly overhead at its most northern point at “high-noon” on the summer solstice, creating more sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere on this day then any other. See your local Sun rise and set times—and how the day length changes!”

Excerpt from The Old Farmer’s Almanac

CELEBRATING THE PAGAN SABBAT LITHA – SUMMER SOLSTICE – Midsummer
“The word “Solstice” comes from the Latin words, sol sistere – “sun stand still”. Indeed the sun does seem to stand still as the sun reaches it’s furthest point from the equator. Summer Solstice harkens the longest day of the year, when warmth spills upon the land and fruitful bounties are enjoyed by all creatures. In the northern hemisphere of our planet, the summer solstice occurs during June. This year it is June 21st and many pagans will be celebrating this one day with reverence and celebration.

Long ago, pagans didn’t denote “midsummer” as the first day of summer—for it wasn’t then and isn’t now—save for our modern society deemed the day so. How ironic that after this longest day the daylight gets shorter! So our ancestors realized Summer Solstice is the beginning of the END of summer.

Our ancestors were not ruled by convention or committee—no, they were ruled by the seasons of harvest, sexual awareness in the Spring of all living creatures and the need to store for the winter months ahead. Survival depended on their sensitivity to abnormal weather patterns, bad harvest years, the swelling and receding ocean waves for good fishing days.

The summer solstice is often the time of the first harvest and hence a celebration of this bounty has been held for hundreds of years. The day lasts so long, the gaiety lasted well into night, with dancing, food, mead, wine and merriment. The sun, Sol, brings life to growing crops in the field and warmth to the bones of the workers who harvested. This is reflected in the midsummer rituals or plucking herbs, for this special day brings added vigor, potency to the herbs for medicine and spells.

When night approaches, the pagan fires will burn brightly in honor of the sun. This is a time to strengthen the bonds between the participants as they chant to Sol’s continued service to the earth and it’s creatures. Some sacred sites, around the world will draw huge crowds as the Summer Solstice is honored. Stonehenge has an entrance-way that was aligned with the solstice sunrise and is a popular gathering place for modern druids and others enthusiasts on midsummer’s day.

For Wiccans, Midsummer is one of the four “Lesser Sabbats” or “Low Holidays”. Some now call this day Litha, the day of the Lord of Light, the Oak King who sits solidly on a greenwood throne. Across the world, many pagans will throw off the hooded robes and bath skyclad under the sun while honoring Sol. Gypsies will also honor this day in similar abandon to their hard work during harvest and their respect for Gaia.

So as the Celts & Slavs celebrate with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun’s energy, the Chinese honor Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light. One of the most enduring rituals of the Summer Solstice is were the Druids’ celebrate of the “wedding of Heaven and Earth”, that brought about our present day belief of a “lucky” wedding in June.

Pagan spirit gatherings or festivals are very common in June. It is time for festivities, eating and drinking all day with pagans. Women will wear braided circlets of clover and flowers on their hair, wrists and ankles. Men will wear chaplets of oak leaves and flowers around their heads in honor of the Oak King.”

Excerpt from author Chérie Angélique de Sues

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Spirit Message of the Day – Winter Solstice – Spirit of Warmth

YULETIDE & WINTER SOLSTICE
Monday, December 21st, marks the day of Yule. Also known as midwinter, Winter Solstice. This is the longest night of the year and is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the new spark of hope; the light of the world which was conceived during the rites of Ostara. 

The season is for celebrating the rebirth of the sun. The Sun God, who dies at Samhain, is reborn from the Maiden aspect of the Pagan holy trinity: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. On the Winter Solstice, longest night, the Goddess gives birth to the Sun Child when hope for new light is born. The notion of hoping the light returns may seem a bit strange in modern times, but the originators of these traditions did not have the scientific sophistication of contemporary times. The waxing and waning of sunlight was a mystery. 

This is one of three holy days that feels supremely comfortable to Pagans because they are celebrated by the culture at large with many of the Pagan customs and conventions in place. Practices such as gift giving, tree decorating, the hanging of greenery, kissing under the mistletoe and the burning of a Yule log are all unmistakably Pagan. The old Pagan ways are the template over which some religious traditions have laid claims to the season. The most common tradition still in existence from times of old is probably the Yule tree including the stringing of rosebuds, cinnamon sticks, and popcorn garlands, use for keeping the wood spirits warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so they would ring with spirits passed by.
–Excerpt taken from author Gretchen Raisch-Baskin 

“Dance and Sing the Birth of Sun,
For Holly’s reign is gone and done.
‘Tis from this death rebirth we heed
as bread is found from grinding seed.
So, look within for grain to grind.
May peace and joy be all you find.”
–Raven’s Wing
 

The Winter Solstice: The Unconquered Sun 


 

At the Winter Solstice, we celebrate Children’s Day to honour our children and to bring warmth, light and cheerfulness into the dark time of the year. Holidays such as this have their origin as “holy days”. They are the way human beings mark the sacred times in the yearly cycle of life.  

In the northern latitudes, midwinter’s day has been an important time for celebration throughout the ages. On this shortest day of the year, the sun is at its lowest and weakest, a pivot point from which the light will grow stronger and brighter. This is the turning point of the year. The romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. 

The Roman midwinter holiday, Saturnalia, was both a gigantic fair and a festival of the home. Riotous merry-making took place, and the halls of houses were decked with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees. Lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness. Schools were closed, the army rested, and no criminals were executed. Friends visited one another, bringing good-luck gifts of fruit, cakes, candles, dolls, jewellery, and incense. Temples were decorated with evergreens symbolizing life’s continuity, and processions of people with masked or blackened faces and fantastic hats danced through the streets.  

The custom of mummers visiting their neighbours in costume, which is still alive in Newfoundland, is descended from these masked processions. 

Roman masters feasted with slaves, who were given the freedom to do and say what they liked (the medieval custom of all the inhabitants of the manor, including servants and lords alike, sitting down together for a great Christmas feast, came from this tradition). A Mock King was appointed to take charge of the revels (the Lord of Misrule of medieval Christmas festivities had his origin here). 

In pagan Scandinavia the winter festival was the yule (or juul). Great yule logs were burned, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends. It was believed that the yule log had the magical effect of helping the sun to shine more brightly. 

Mistletoe, which was sacred because it mysteriously grew on the most sacred tree, the oak, was ceremoniously cut and a spray given to each family, to be hung in the doorways as good luck. The celtic Druids also regarded mistletoe as sacred. Druid priests cut it from the tree on which it grew with a golden sickle and handed it to the people, calling it All-Heal. To hang it over a doorway or in a room was to offer goodwill to visitors. Kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship. Mistletoe is still forbidden in most Christian churches because of its Pagan associations, but it has continued to have a special place in home celebrations. 

In the third century various dates, from December to April, were celebrated by Christians as Christmas. January 6 was the most favoured day because it was thought to be Jesus’ baptismal day (in the Greek Orthodox Church this continues to be the day to celebrate Christmas). Around 350, December 25 was adopted in Rome and gradually almost the entire Christian Church agreed to that date, which coincided with Winter Solstice, the Yule and the Saturnalia. The merry side of Saturnalia was adopted to the observance of Christmas. By 1100 Christmas was the peak celebration of the year for all of Europe. During the 16th century, under the influence of the Reformation, many of the old customs were suppressed and the Church forbade processions, colourful ceremonies, and plays. 

In 1647 in England, Parliament passed a law abolishing Christmas altogether. When Charles II came to the throne, many of the customs were revived, but the feasting and merrymaking were now more worldly than religious. 

Here in Nova Scotia outdoor coloured lights play an important part in the local celebration of the mid-winter season. With the day turning to darkness so early in the North, it is cheering to look out into the cold and dark at lights sparkling and glittering in the crisp air. 

Our celebration of Children’s Day is inspired not only by the pagan celebrations of mid-winter but arises also out of the Japanese holidays of Boy’s Day and Doll’s Day, which are two separate days in the spring, when boys and girls of a certain age are presented to the temple and honoured with special gifts. The Shambhala Children’s shrine is modeled after the display of ancestral dolls traditional in homes on Doll’s Day.Our sangha is our village, our clan, our family. Our children belong to all of us, and are bright reminders of the future of Buddhism. We celebrate them and the Great Eastern Sun together at the darkest time of the year, with open-hearth parties and cheerful festivities.


The Unconquered Sun first appeared as an article by Janet Shotwell in The Karma Dzong Banner (Vol III, No 11, December 1991, Halifax, Nova Scotia).