by Lady SistterWolf - November 2016
Let me start with the disclaimer: There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pagan parenting (well except for that whole Wiccan Rede thing, if you happen to be Wiccan…. which I am). The words that follow are from my experiences, and are how I handle things. I am in no way saying that you should do it like I do.
Let me take a step back. I am not a “corrector”. I do not remind the Christians in my life that their holidays were once celebrated by heathens. If someone says “Merry Christmas” to me I return in kind, I wish my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukah, and I certainly don’t waggle my pagan faith in their faces. I am a Wiccan and one of the teachings of my coven is that we do not proselytize in any way.
In my house, we celebrate the Yule-tide, the time of year that celebrates the renewal of the sun and the shortening of the days. If you talk to five different pagans (heck, five different Wiccans) then you will get five different answers on when Yule-Tide is. We may all agree that the Winter Solstice is on or near December 22nd, but we will all differ in how and when we celebrate that. In my house, we celebrate the season from December 2nd to January 3rd. Those are not arbitrary dates; they are the birthdays of two very important people in my family and have always marked when we put up our tree and when we take it down. So, when I became a parent I kept the tradition.
After he was born I took some time away from my coven to raise my very young son. It’s very hard to be an Elder and a parent when your children are small. A couple of years ago I returned to my coven (welcomed with open arms) and returned to teaching.
My son is now 11 and last year began expressing an interest in attending my rituals and learning more about Wicca. With his father’s permission, he began joining me at out-meets. My son’s first sabbat was a Yule. We celebrated the sun and we exchanged gifts. On the way home my son remarked at how similar it was to what we have been doing his whole life. Yeah little man…. Secretly Mommy has been doing pagan stuff this whole time!!!
Here are some of our family traditions for the Yule-Tide:
Yule logs are a tradition in my coven. At the beginning of Yule-Tide (early December for us) we get together and decorate Yule logs. Then we take those yule logs home and they decorate our homes. We burn our candles on the solstice and use the logs for our Imbolg fire. While my son was little (and before the return to my coven) we would decorate a Yule log sometime after we had put up our tree. Then on December 22nd we would burn the candles and the log would be burned for a marshmallow toast. I rarely waited until Imbolg to burn the log, but I doubt the gods are going to punish me for that.
The Christmas Pickle
About 3 or 4 years ago I was cruising the dollar store for some cheap décor for our yule log when I came across this crazy Christmas ornament. It was called a Christmas Pickle and claimed to be an old German tradition. I looked it up and was so damned tickled by all the different stories that I bought the pickle and it has been a tradition in our home ever since (click Here to read more about it). In our home the Christmas pickle is left off the tree and placed on Santa’s Tray (more on that later). After eating the delish repast we leave for him, Santa places our pickle on the tree and whoever finds it first on Christmas morning gets to open the first present (3 guesses as to who has found it EVERY year).
The Advent Calendar
The first Decoration to go up in our home is the advent calendar (though we call it the count-down calendar). And beginning on December 1 every morning my son gets to open the appropriately numbered door or flap (the last two years we have purchased a Lego advent calendar…you know, because LEGOS!). He gets some sort of little treat or present and either eats it or plays with it that morning. Why? To remind him that every morning that the sun rises is a gift. For 24 days he is greeted every morning with a gift and on day 25 he is gifted the ultimate gifts.
Yes, my 11-year-old still believes in Santa and magic and flying reindeer, and good for him. There are SOOOOO many different traditions about Santa Claus (4, 5, 6) take your pick and follow it. Personally, I like the American Santa Claus and as such we follow that tradition. In the twilight hours of December 25th, a jolly fat man shows up and magics himself down our chimney (or in the days of no fireplace he jimmied our locks open, Santa has street cred); he then proceeds to leave a veritable magic sack full of presents under our tree. But only for the children. At the age of enlightenment (age 13) Santa figures you have had enough of the free stuff. My son is not looking forward to that, but he understands that at some point we grow up and Santa should be focused on the CHILDREN of the world, especially those who have nothing throughout the year. He still fills stockings for the adults so my son knows he will still be visited by Santa and rewarded for his generosity.
Our Santa story has always been this: Santa is the spirit and magic of Yule-tide. He shows us how generous we should be throughout the year and rewards us for our generosity.
We should also sacrifice our time and energy to give to those who do not have. Even when we were at our poorest we gave. We donate food to food pantries, we volunteer at park clean-ups, we give money to worthy charities. As Santa gives so do we give. In return we also give thanks to Santa for his generosity. We have a Santa Tray, and on it we place a small meal for Santa and his reindeer. It usually consists of hot cocoa or cider (with a snort of whiskey in it) and cookies, sometimes a sandwich. And the reindeer get carrots or apples and we leave a bowl of water for them too. On that tray we always put the Christmas Pickle for Santa to hide. He left us a note the first year we did it and said that he always had fun at the houses who had Christmas Pickles. My son looks forward to playing his game with Santa every year.
I end this by wishing every one of you who read this all of those things, especially the magic. The magic is the most important part.
“If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future.”
"So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
- Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day
Music: Cold - Jorge Méndez
Having reigned over the Golden Age, Saturnius (Kronos; Greek) arrived in the area of Rome "dethroned and fugitive". With him, he brought the promise of agriculture and civilization for man and thus was rewarded a share of the kingdom by Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. As one of the first gods of the Capitol, Saturnius Mons was seen as "a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation." So important was his presence in the city of Rome that His temple housed the city's treasury and every year, for over 600 years, Romans celebrated the Saturnalia.
Originally Saturnalia was a farmer’s festival that was celebrated on just one day at the end of autumn. It is believed that Roman soldiers, in need of a morale boost during the 2nd Punic War against Hannibal of Carthage in 217 bce, quickly changed Saturnalia into a two-day event. During Emperor Augustus' reign (63 bce -14 ce), Saturnalia was as a two day event but ended a 7-day affair. Saturnalia was merged with the Festival of Opalia (for Saturn's consort Ops, a mother earth figure) and the Sigillaria, the day of gift-giving and then, by or before 274 ce, culminated in Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
Saturnalia involved role-switching games between masters and slaves, widespread gambling, feasts, a special market, the giving of presents, and sacrifices. Public banquets, the cancelation of executions, refraining from declaring war, a moratorium on any work and matters of state marked the days of Saturnalia. The grand statue of Saturn in his Temple on Capitoline Hill in Rome, whose legs and feet were normally bound in wool, were unbound signifying perhaps the release of the power of freedom from laws and convention.
Throughout its history Saturnalia incorporated many of the practices we associate with modern day Yule and Christmas.
~ Lady Atheona
Inner Circle Sanctuary - Samhain 2016
High Priestess - Lady Nashoba
High Priest - Lord Rand
Maiden - Lady Gwendolyn
Summoner - Lord Sissterwolf
It's November in Vegas, and even here in the Mohave Desert the temperatures usually cool during daylight hours.... usually; but not this day. It was unseemingly hot, however, we were grateful it was not as unbearable as Vegas summer days are wont to get. The majority of us arrived nice and early to help set-up the area.
We always include a lot of photos of set-up. It is during this time that we joke, laugh, and build bonds between us. The building of the ring allows for a flawless ritual to follow. The in-depth preparation prevents mishaps later when you want the focus to be on the magic and ritual of the sabbat. Meticulously, using an actual compass, we find the four quarters and hammer in the beautifully hand-forged quarter markers that Lord Rdhawk made for us. For Samhain, our quarters are also marked by the carved pumpkins whose 'noses' reflected their guardianship. The building of the firepit (which almost always turns into a class) ensures that when the High Priest is ready to light it for ritual, it is immediately aflame. The circle is drawn using the tools we bring to rake and shovel the rocks and then the rope is laid with an entrance in the northeast. Once the rope is planted, and even though there isn't any energy commited yet, the doorway to the ring is the marker by which we enter. The ring space is sacred once the rope is down. There is no stepping over the rope to retrieve a item from the altar or to take an item there. All that is left is for the maiden to clear the province with her besom, the High Priestess / Goddess incarnate to cast the ring, and for it to be consecrated with the elements; all parts of the ritual itself. There are many levels and layers to constructing a magical sabbat ring which means many hands. It is this working together for the festivities ahead that help to build our comradery and closeness. You can see the reflection of this bonding in the friendships that are forged.
BFFs Lady Nashoba and Lord Rand were ecstatic for finally being able to work together. Their love, care, and devotion to one another was emulated by all who attended. Sometimes though, in the excitement of it all, and in the nervousness and stress that comes with being the leaders of a celebration, the meticulous preparations of SELF are forgotten. Self preparation for ritual is just as important. One must take care to eat and drink and rest, especially on an abnormally hot November day. During the ritual, directly after casting the ring, Lady Nashoba grew lightheaded and in a display of proper coven etiquette, the maiden, Lady Gwendolyn stepped in as the assistant to the High Priestess. (In my 19 years with Inner Circle Temple and with Inner Circle Sanctuary, it was the very first time we have ever had to do this that I had witnessed. It was unsettling in the most wonderful way. ~Atheona) Lady Nashoba was able to recover quickly and reclaim her leadership role to finish the night.
Everyone wore masks and some dressed in beautiful regalia. From paying respects to the honoring of the Lord of Misrule, the remainer of the sabbat was delightful. There was giggling as the members did the Dance of Going and Returnings and shrieks of delight as they spun back into life. There were of course, sad moments. The reading of the names of those who have made our coven what it is today brought scattered tears and the toasts to our loved ones choked up more than a few of us. After the circle there was birthday cake for our lovely Lady Joyanna, leader of our crew, along with some delicious wassail, punny pagan jokes, songs, stories, and dancing. The Sanderson Sisters even honored us with a visit and a wonderful performance.
As we move into the winter season (hopefully the days here in Vegas cool quickly), we will huddle even closer to one another for the warmth and love that comes from being a family. We will plan and prepare; we will eat and drink; and we will work and celebrate each other. In the dead season, LIFE is always appreciated much, much more.
The Inner Circle Sanctuary is a school for traditional style Wicca and holds eight sabbat festivals every year.