The Gods and Spirits on Your Holiday List

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Time to revel in the onset of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and pay our respects to Those who rule this time of year.

The “holidays” can often be difficult for pagans within the framework of the dominant culture,  and one way to ground yourself in your own traditions, whether you are practicing them alongside the dominant paradigm or not, is to put your Gods and Spirits on your holiday gift list.

During one of my forest wanderings I realized that in the stress of the outer Christmas season I had actually been ignoring one whole wing of important “family”—my spiritual family. So, after having received requests in the mail to donate for years, I went ahead and finally paid the money to become a member of the natural area that I often walk and worship in. I had to scrape the money together but I immediately felt the rightness of doing this. I often leave other offerings to my spiritual family, such as traditional gifts of food or wine—but to contribute to the fund that keeps the place they reside in protected is a very important addition to what I can offer. And, it adds me as officially one more person who cares. This will be very important in the future, I believe, as we face an uncertain political landscape that seems to be shaping up to be made up more and more of those who do not care.

It is time to really evaluate what is important and to prepare to honor it and hold on to it. For many pagans, this means a particular natural area or cause that is meaningful to them. Even if you find yourself never worshipping outside in the natural world, you can still hopefully appreciate that natural areas serve as buffers both physically and spiritually to the metro areas that many of us live in. And natural areas are, on many levels, truly the genesis of Those we honor.

So, make a new tradition of spending money, if you can, especially on a local level, to protect the natural areas you find your Gods and Spirits in. Is it a city park? There is probably an organization that serves the park. Donate to it. Is it a wilderness area? Donate to a group dedicated to stewardship of wilderness areas. Make it a yearly tradition. If other things move you, say animal shelters, or helping the unhoused, donate to those causes. The time is now. Prioritize it. The money you spend on this sort of thing will be so much more meaningful than buying useless crap during the commercialized holidays. And, it sends a message as you join your support with others who contribute, a message that says people find this cause worthy and important. Hey, if you can get away with giving a present to someone by donating to a natural area/local cause in their name, do it.

And of course, if you truly cannot afford to donate money, donate time and labor. Do you walk a certain stretch of woods? Dedicate some special time to pick up garbage. You can do this without spending money or having to be part of any group, and it most definitely honors the Gods and Spirits.

Make the holidays meaningful again.

 

 

Into Shadow

 

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I love the moving speech King Theoden gives in The Two Towers. Unfortunately, I find it very timely. It is good to remember, however, that Théoden fought on. Sure, it’s a movie, a book, a story. But really—we are writing our own story now. How will it go?

Riders on the Storm

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Catching a few hours of freedom, I chose, as usual, to go to the mountain. Dark clouds moved across the sky in waves and the lightest sprinkles of rain were swept in on the wind. I welcome the rainy weather—it usually means I have the place to myself. On this day I reached the top and sat down to enjoy my customary thermos of tea.  Suddenly I became aware of a great clamoring in the eastern section of the sky. At first I thought it was a murder of crows; then I thought I heard geese, then the sound seemed to merge into an undefinable howling. I strained to see where it was coming from, but the clouds obscured the source of the noise. Still, I could tell it was moving westward across the sky and for a brief, startling moment I felt that if I stood up and spread out my arms I could join them, those howlers on the wind.  A chill ran up my spine, despite the fact that I was clutching a hot thermos of tea, because whether or not the makers of the sound were crows, or geese, or both, they were also something else.  Part of me knew then that the Hunt was on the ride and for just a moment, it had called me. The wind blew, the rain prickled my face and then the moment was lost with the sound, receding into the western cloud banks.

I sat like stone, a long time, before drinking my tea.

When a God Appears

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I have hiked a certain mountain consistently for an entire year now. During this time I have been longing to see a physical manifestation of a particular deity of mine. In the wider culture he is known more popularly as Cernunnos, or perhaps Pan. Almost a year to the day since I started traversing this particular landscape, I saw him. A rustling of leaves was the first clue. Oh, I thought, surely a squirrel. And then, at the side of the trail,  I came nearly face to face with the huge dark eyes and majestic antlers of a buck. We were close enough that I could see he had what looked like spider web filaments hanging from his horns, and that they were festooned with leaves. We regarded each other motionless and in silence for several minutes. Eventually I bowed to him and carefully continued on my way.

I felt lucky to have been granted this meeting. Because the gods don’t have to grant you anything. At all. Ever. It took an entire year for me to see him. It takes patience and alertness, a thing we lack in the modern world, where devices, instant gratification and empty surface culture constantly howl for our attention. For gods’ sakes, put down the smartphone, get off of Facebook and resist the temptation to take a selfie everywhere you go! Not having a picture of it does not make it any less real, any less valid.  Listen to the rustle of leaves, the wind in the treetops. See the shining kaleidoscope of a spider’s web in the sun. Track the curve of the moon across the sky. Cultivate the inner listening you have, the instinct, the intuition. And come face to face with that which moves you.

Just Honor It

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I am not tied to any tradition in particular. I lean towards animism, but I do enjoy a quote attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright that goes like this:

“I believe in God. Only I spell it NATURE”

I don’t dwell on what other people do or do not do, although it interests me. I don’t care if anything is particularly fashionable or not. I’m not a Wiccan, but I like Scott Cunningham’s view on rituals and offerings. While he did do some things in a more “official” way, he was also big on sudden spontaneous rituals/offerings wherever he happened to be with what he had at the time. I have been moved to make mandalas or other “pictures” with materials at hand, pinecones and leaves and such, when I am out practicing spiritual wandering. This is neither a better nor worse offering than say, getting special cakes or a bottle of wine to pour out. It is in the moment, though, which can sometimes make it more powerful.

One thing I think is important overall, however, is to just stop with all of the extraneous stimulus of the politics and policing of polytheism, and its cousins, and just honor it, whatever “it” is to you. Getting lost in the labyrinth of community kerfuffles, or appointing oneself as policer of practices and groups is an excuse of sorts to not get on with the Work. While a person is expending energy on making other people measure up to certain standards, that person is neglecting the very thing that brought them to the community in the first place. Honoring it really should be first on the list.

And that is my judgemental moment for today 🙂