Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Rhythm of a Pagan Year

It is Christmas morning as I write, and I am pausing before getting up to help cook for the family dinner later in the day. This dinner is the last vestige of Christmas customs in my life, pretty much, except for whatever amount of participation we do in the gifting customs, though that’s as Pagan as any part of the season. The last couple of years have seen the passing away of the older generation of my family, and this year it will be my brother and I with our wives and kids. Fortunately there are several new babies – I find that kids provide more excuse for the seasonal goofiness. Excuses for goofiness are welcome.

I find the great to-do around the winter holidays annoying, really. I’ve lived in the Pagan calendar for the past 30 years, keeping the High Days (we used to call them ‘Sabbats’) with what has been an ever-growing community of Pagan and Pagan-friendly folk. At this point, for me, Lughnassadh is a much more important holy day than Yuletide, and actually requires at least as much effort when we hold our big Games and Rite. Bealtaine usually involves two or three parties, rites or sets of customs and of course we’ve just finished Samhain, often the biggest social holiday season of my Pagan year. I’m entirely aware that the Neopagan eightfold year is a modern construct, but I find it wholesome and holy, and it is too much a part of my custom to let mere scholasticism turn me from it at this late date.

So I turn through each year with a holy feast every six or seven weeks. I find the long observance of the Wheel to be one of the most effective bits of Theurgy available through Neopagan symbolism. Each time one works the full year one accomplishes a ‘magical retreat’ of eight rites spread across a year. The cycle brings a round of offerings to the Gods and to the other spirits, and to return with intention to Samhain and then to Yule each year is to complete a major magical work. Through it I feel blessed by all the Powers, standing firm in the wheel of sacred time.

Forgive my poetic turn… I know Yuletide’s important, and has hugely cross-cultural appeal. I do wish the Christians would reduce their insistence on doctrinal unity around the ‘Christ’ in the season, but that seems like too much to expect. Fortunately the natural power of the season shines through, and even the Christian symbol of the incarnate divine manifest in the humble circumstances of flesh speaks to the fresh spark of light and long growth of the Yuletide sun. So I try never to get too annoyed at the religious content of the cross-cultural season.

It just seems unbalanced to me, so much cultural weight given to one holy season out of eight. I suppose that when one is devout in a religion (Pagan Druidry, in my case) one finds reasons to prefer it. Still, I am pretty glad that Christmas is passing, and we can get on to the much more Pagan secular celebration of the Calends of the Year; then on to Imbolc, the feast of the Goddess of our house. See, there’s always a new blessing coming.

Still, to all Northern hemisphere dwellers, may the blessing of the newborn Light shine on us and grow in us, from spark to flame, from seed in the dark to shoot and bud and summer’s flower.


Jacquie Omi said...
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Jacquie Omi said...

Last night, Christmas Eve, in an indigenous village in Central Mexico that I have called home for nearly 4 years the festivities lasted from dusk until dawn. There was food and drink, lots of singing, many firecrackers, a community fire, and no gift exchange. The rural Mexicans awaited the birth of the Sun/Son as they have for ages past. I felt at home, safe, and welcome in my skin, in my soul, in my beliefs. To follow the ancient calendar we spread the High Days evenly and honor nature and the Gods all year long. Goddess knows our Mother Earth needs fewer consumers and more ritualistic respect.