Tag Archives: celebration

Druidry in Winter

On Facebook, Bobcat asked everyone, “how do your religious, spiritual or secular beliefs guide you to live through the dark (in the northern hemisphere) months of November and December, to engage (or not) with the festivals of late December and early January, and walk the days to the first whispers of new life?”

It needs a longer answer than facebook wall posts allow, and I thought it worth exploring so, here goes

I’ve never lived with a full selection of modern comforts – critically central heating, so I experience the winter, and the cold, very intensely. Feet are my primary mode of transport, so ice and snow impact heavily upon me. The realities of my life mean I am outside for significant amounts of time on a daily basis, so I experience the changes in light and temperature changes very directly. Those physical experiences contribute to my spiritual understanding of winter in its ongoing effects upon me. I have fell runners’ crampons to help me walk, and every day at the moment I celebrate the wonder of human invention. Those crampons keep me on my feet and give me freedom where before had only fear and difficulty.

My spirituality engenders in me an acceptance of what is. I don’t feel any need to fight against the world or resent what it is currently doing. Instead I try to flow with it. I don’t go out at night much in winter. I wear a lot of jumpers. I can’t hold this house at comfortable heat levels for ‘normal’ living. I have to work with the winter and my own body and all the tools I can muster to deal with the cold. There is also a spiritual underpinning to my seeking the beauty in all things and being intent on perceiving what is around me. So although I’m freezing and walking with chilblains hurts, I’m still being enchanted by the beauty of ice crystals on trees and spiderwebs, the mystery of mist, the wonder of sunlight touching snow dusted hills.

The bardic calling and the call to service tend to combine at this time of year and send me out singing, bringing music and what cheer I can to people who need it. I sang in a prison one year. This year there will be old people’s homes. I’ve sung carols in the street raising money for charity before now. In the darker days, community, human contact, music and storytelling seem more important than ever. The human need for light, warmth and company in response to the cold and dark is a very basic one. Commercialmass celebrations (thank you bish for the perfect term) feed on those needs without, I think, actually answering them. So I feel strongly motivated to honour connections, relationships and community events at this time of year, whilst trying very hard not to get sucked into the commercial thing. I end up singing a lot of songs about the birth of Christ, which feels odd as a Druid, BUT, it’s what the people I’ll be singing to want to hear, it’s what I’m being called upon to do, and answering the need is more important than the religious element. There will be times and places to sing my own songs for this season.

I will celebrate the turning of the year – again because for me that’s primarily a celebration of human contact. I stopped making new year’s resolutions a while ago. I realised it was just a seasonal excuse to beat myself up -I was reliably resolving to become thin and more acceptable to the people around me. I will try harder. Give more. Ask for less. I don’t make that kind of promise any more, not least because I no longer feel obliged to crush and negate myself for the convenience of those around me. Instead I’ll take the opportunity to review my life and contemplate where I am going, which results in dedications. I already know what dedication I’ll be making this year, and will share that when the time comes.

There are signs of spring already – the trees make their leaf buds in winter, the catkins are there ready to open. I’ll watch the slow shift from day to day, welcome the changes, honouring the flows as I experience them, and greeting the return of warmth with relief and gratitude. There will be spring cleaning, and clothes shopping, because this year has stripped flesh from my bones like no other.

Raising a Glass

The idea of ritual toasting is one I got from Heathen folk, although I cannot recall where exactly I encountered the idea. The premise is fairly simple – the mead horn is filled and cannot be put down until empty, so is passed around the circle. I believe the traditional way is to identify a group – The Gods, the ancestors etc and everyone drinks to them.

When it comes down to it, most pagans aren’t averse to a drop of ritual alcohol. This is a lovely tradition to borrow, and can be adapted – mead horns not being essential, nor for that matter, is mead. But the sharing of drink in a ritual context is bonding, and toasting is something everyone can easily participate in. You can provide non-alcoholic options as well for greater inclusivity.

In open rituals, getting people to feel they can join in is always a challenge. It’s also really important to make sure that everyone in a circle is able to actively engage with it. Paganism is not a passive religion, people should not come along to have it happen to them, they should be enabled (as far as is humanly possible) by whoever leads the ritual, to take active part. Those new to ritual need simple things they can readily understand and undertake, without feeling self conscious or intimidated. When acting as celebrant for groups that include non-pagans, getting meaningful engagement is even harder, but no less important. Techniques that are comfortable for non-pagans and help them act in meaningful ways in pagan rituals, are useful indeed.

Toasting is a familiar form. You don’t even have to speak, you can just raise the glass to make a meaningful gesture. This makes it an incredibly useful, and powerful tool in a celebrant’s repertoire. People who might otherwise stay silent find it possible to raise a glass and offer a word ‘to my grandparents’ ‘to the earth’. As a celebrant, I’ve had families drinking to the memory of the dead, and to the health of the married couple. It’s very easy to organise, you just need a drink and a receptacle. The act of toasting gives everyone the chance to say what is on their mind, to share a memory, offer a hope. It is an act of celebration even in times of grief, and it helps people to share with each other. Used in seasonal celebration, it’s a happy, playful activity that allows people to express themselves creatively.

The sourcing of the drink for toasting also allows creative expression. People can seek out organic, and local products, they can make their own and bring to share. That’s another way to engage for folk who might not be able to express in more wordy ways, but who want to give something. Someone can be bottle bearer – an easy, non-speaking role enabling a student to become that bit more active in circle. There’s also the possibility of mulling – wine or cider – and in those chilly Samhain to Imbolc rituals, a mug of something hot going round the circle can lift spirits and inspire folks in all sorts of interesting ways!

There’s much to explore and play with here, and from experience, I can heartily recommend it.

Book Review: Yule by Dorothy Morrison


Note: Review originally published in 2000. Personal notations are from that period, and not current. I just had to include this today!

Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth
By Dorothy Morrison

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Number of Pages: 198
ISBN: 1-56718-496-0
Copyright: Dorothy Morrison 2000
Release: Fall 2000

I literally itched to get this book from the moment it was offered to me. Dorothy Morrison has made a large impact on the pagan community with her warmth and heart, and I feel honored to recommend this book.

And that I do, highly! Particularly at this time of year – a season to prepare and give gifts, to celebrate the birth of the Sun, to celebrate our families, our friends, our lives. I think I gained five pounds just reading and imagining the recipes – I envisioned Ms. Morrison’s “Ambrosia” (pg 128) melting in my mouth; “Gingerbread Cookies” (pg 127) and “Wassail” (pg 144) for all at my family gathering this holiday season.

This of course leads to thoughts of presents for various family members. Almost all of my family is unbearably difficult to buy for – so I simplify and give them all pictures of the girls. For those who invariably require something a little more (like my much younger brothers, who aren’t much older than my girls) I try to find something to suit their personalities.

This year, each of them is getting gifts made by my little family, following directions in “Yule.” My mother (again, the most difficult person to buy for) will get a Potpourri Lamp as described on page 101, with slight modifications. This will be from myself, as the girls have laid claim on decorating other candle-holders. My brothers will receive the “Coffee Spoons” found on page 149. My grandparents will be getting a modified version of the Stocking Identifiers on page 64, to be used as ornaments on their little tree.

Here’s a sample of Ms. Morrison’s work, from page 51:

The Dawning of Solstice
T’was the dawning of Solstice
The shortest day of the year
And we cheered on the Mother
For Her delivery was near
And as we watched the pink streaks
That flashed bright in the sky
We knew he was coming
In the flash of an eye
Then the Mother groaned once
And an orange streak appeared
Then yellow, then white
And we all laughed and cheered
Then the first ray of sunshine
Bathed us all with its light
And we knew that the Sun
Had been born of the Night
And He rose in the sky – Just a tiny bright ball –
To warm our hearts and our planet…
Happy Solstice to all!
~ Adapted by Dorothy Morrison from the 1823 poem “A Visit From St.Nicholas” By Clement C. Moore

Y’all have a little time before it’s too late for this year’s Yule celebrations. If you are at a creative loss for ideas, or just wish to try something new – I cannot stress enough – THIS BOOK COVERS IT! From the origins of the multitude of celebrations, to crafts and activities, to a countdown calendar – Ms.Morrison’s Yule is a perfect resource to help you welcome the Sun!

I bet it would make a great gift, too. 😉

Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

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