Firstly can I say thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the course of the last year, as well as to all those who have encouraged and inspired me. I am a full time mum with a full time job so often I blog in my down time on the bus or in my lunch break. I know that I sometimes make mistakes when I post in a rush (like not giving my post a title) but all in all its been an enjoyable experience.
Over the next year I might piggy back on to another project or dip into a 30 Days of Devotion or two, its still up in the air. Certainly there’s a bit of a backlog of posts from this year which will be coming eventually, apparently I’ve developed a habit of writing and storing posts when a new idea comes along.
So once again, thank you dear reader for sticking with me and now onto the post!
It’s that time of year again. Christmas songs and carols forced down our throats at every turn; shops full of the latest must haves and a sea of humanity climbing over itself in an attempt to secure that last one. Bah Humbug.
As a parent with children in the education system there is no escaping either commercial Christmas or Christian elements of the season. I’ve always made it a point that my children should be involved in multicultural activities and I encourage them to talk about what they’ve learnt and look at it critically and comparatively (in as far as they can) with what is practiced at home. I know this isn’t always the case, with parents of all religions choosing to limit their child’s involvement in learning about faiths that are not their own. Whilst I respect a parents right to make this choice I have always found it a puzzling one, particularly pagan parents.
Perhaps I have too wider field of view. My problem has never really been with a prophet or His message but with the organisations and the way they can abuse this message to their own ends. Often I find that words are misrepresented, twisted or forced into the Prophet’s mouth in order to justify individual views on subjects and issues. Even when breaking with the church of my childhood I had little negative to say against the Bible or its message but I am still very damning of the way that it treated individuals within the congregation and issues within society. This view has only strengthened as LGBT and child abuse issues (amongst others) have come to the fore.
In this way I take the view expressed by the Oracle of Hekate in response to questions asked by Porphyry about Jesus of Nazarath …
“…He himself, however, was good, and heaven has been opened to him as to other good men. You are not, then, to speak evil of him, but to pity the folly of men: and through him men’s danger is imminent…”
… and this is why I have no hesitation in letting the girls learn more about this and other religious faiths. There is something to be learnt in the religious writings of other faiths, something to be carried forward in life and learning and not shut out because of a field of view narrowed by our own religious/spiritual leanings.
Now that rant’s over back to the season itself.
There are two celebrations in our house. We celebrate the wider commercial element of the 25th December with the family as a whole, Pagan and Christian alike. It is more about the children and the pleasure they get seeing the lights, presents, Father Christmas etc. Religion isn’t at the forefront, the family is.
Then there is the Solstice on the 21st/22ndDecember. This is a time of light and celebration but also of remembrance. As a family we lost an important family member on the 22nd of December 2006 which coincidentally was the day on which the solstice fell. As a general rule I use the Solstice as an act of remembrance even in years where it falls on the 21st December. As well as lighting candles and exchanging gifts (signed by such figures as Odin and the Winter King) at home we attend St Gemma’s Hospice which holds a commemorative leaf on their Tree of Life and make an additional donation in our family members honour.
Whilst I personally hold rituals I generally don’t hold structured rituals for the children. On the rare occasions I have included my eldest I have lit a candle and we have had a conversation about the celebration. At Yule in particular we have talked about the identity of Father Christmas (generally we don’t refer to the fat man in red as Santa Clause which is the America/Dutch name given to this Spirit of Christmas), why we light candles and the death and eventual return of the Sun. We also talk about the nativity story and the things that she has done at school. I generally keep things light, throw in a bit of science to explain exactly why we are experiencing long nights and short days, and ask her to feed back her thoughts and feelings about both Solstice and Christmas.
All in all we have a good old chinwag.
I have vague intentions that this will be the year of the Tea Light holder. This is a craft project I’ve been holding on to for a few years now until Lilith was able to participate. Being that Yule is a festival of light I am going to invite them to decorate a glass jar (in my case an old decaf coffee jar but smaller sizes will work too) with tissue paper applied with that craft staple of glupy glue (part water part PVA glue). This will create a stain glass effect when a lit tea light is place inside the jar.
This is really a craft idea for older children considering that it involves fire however other craft ideas can include colouring in, and making a loo roll Yule Log or candle. Failing that there are always good old fashioned paper snowflakes. In the past I’ve printed a selection of templates and plain folded paper and let Freya loose with the scissors. Again, it’s a good time to engage kids in conversation or maybe tell a winter based story such as tales of Jack Frost, The Cailleach and Bride or even Demeter and Persephone.
The tale of the Caillecach and Bride is a good tale to tell to children. As chilling (pardon the pun) as the tale is it presents the two faces of the female divine, the crone aspect aligned with winter and fear and the maid/mother aspect aligned with spring/summer and returning life. Depending on the version of the tale you choose you can incorporate familiar concepts of male winter spirits in the character of Father Winter or simply concentrate on the turning of the seasons as represented by the cycle within the story. Don’t worry overly about whether your child is too young to understand the story. I was rather taken aback when Freya started to read a book called Tales of Taliesin – The Powerful Potion on her online reading program from school. The tale of Ceridwen’s Cauldron is retold at a Keystage 1 reading level and I found it a really accessible retelling of the tale. Apart from struggling with the pronunciation of Ceridwen and Gwion (which even I couldn’t pronounce that correctly according the word hint on the app) Freya loved it and it was a great conversation starter.
So Seasons Blessings to you dear reader, there is more to come over the next turning of the Wheel and I hope you’ll stick with me until then.