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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Spread Some Winter Solstice Joy

Forget About a Somber Solstice

Why not stir things up and get out of your winter rut before it begins? That's the way I'm feeling this year, folks. Life's too weird and short and unpredictable. After two unbearably long years of a pandemic with no end in sight, we should be looking for little bursts of laughter and light wherever we can find them. Be safe and caring for your loved ones, but still take surprise opportunities that come your way. A candlelit labyrinth walk at sunset in a nearby urban garden with a friend? Count me in. Share, give, reach out. Chances are good that everyone you know will be needing and appreciating it.

Laugh it Up

I don't know about all of you, but I still take a childlike delight in revisiting childhood Christmas classics this time of year on TV. There's a purity and wonder there that stand the test of time, not to mention catchy tunes and delightful artwork. My top five faves in this order would be: 1. "Scrooge," (musical 70s Albert Finney version), 2. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," (because puppets) 3. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Boris Karloff, people), 4. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (that Vince Garibaldi Trio soundtrack is beautifully haunting), and 5. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (I dare you not to laugh at the squirrel in the tree). There are times we need to be reminded of things like innocence and giggling just for the heck of it. I would venture that these are those times.

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On Sunday, December 19, 2021 (10 a.m. CST) I'll be addressing (via Zoom) the good folks of the Unitarian Church of Underwood, Minnesota. 

 

Have You Spoken with the Sun Lately?

Reflections on the Winter Solstice

 

A reporter once asked a witch: Do witches pray?

The witch smiled. We dance, she said.

 

Please join us Sunday, December 19, 2021, when storyteller Steven Posch asks, "Have you spoken with the Sun lately?", reflects on Indigenous European religion, and shares the songs, tales, and even—yes—dances of the Winter Solstice.

 

Poet, scholar, and storyteller Steven Posch (rhymes with "gauche") was raised in the wooded hills of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer (that's the story, anyway), and has celebrated the Winter Solstice since the tender age of twelve. He emigrated to Paganistan (which may or may not be Minneapolis, MN) in 1989, and has since become (gods help us all) a respected senior voice in the American pagan community. Current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser, he blogs at the wickedly popular Paganistan blog.

He also looks pretty good in a kilt.

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At the end of the Yuledays, we take down the greenery that has gladdened our darkest nights, and we burn it.

Why?

(In the old days, of course, it wasn't just Yule that was bedecked with seasonal greenery, but all the holidays. Think of Harvest Home's leaves and sheaves, for example.)

The greenery that bedecks a holiday partakes of the sacredness of the holy tide, and you don't just throw away something sacred. What is sacred needs to be disposed of in a sacred way.

In Received Tradition, there are three means of sacred disposal:

By Earth: i.e. by burial.

By Water: i.e. by deposition in a river or body of water.

By Fire: i.e. by burning.

(Those familiar with the Threefold Cosmology of the ancients will readily see the analogues here.)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

Housefly - Wikipedia

 

Here's the odd thing this Yule: I've been experiencing a plague of flies.

What's odd is not the flies themselves, but the timing. Usually about a fortnight or so after I move the outdoor plants inside before Samhain, there's a hatching of flies. I presume that the eggs come in with the plants, and the warmth of the house hatches them out. Hence, flies. It always takes me a few days to hunt them all down. With flies, I've learned, you have to be pretty ruthless. If you don't get them before they breed, you'll be sorry.

This autumn there was no hatching of flies. At the time, I remarked the fact, but can't say that I missed them.

On the first day of Yule, though, I saw the first fly. The next day, there were a couple more. The next, a few more.

You know how it is with the Yuledays: things that happen then somehow take on added significance.

Well, the mistletoe is still hanging, and has been since Midwinter's Eve. Technically, this means that the house is under the bough, i.e. in a state of Yulefrith—the peace of Yule—and that nothing should be killed here for the duration.

I'll admit that this gave me pause, but only briefly. Call me impious, but in my house the Yulefrith extends to fellow humans and—if we're pushing it—to fellow mammals. Yes, flies are kin, too—We be of one blood, you and I—but when it comes to frith, I'm sorry: bugs don't count. As I've said before, sometimes you have to be ruthless.

So, I killed them as I saw them. Every day, through all the first Twelve Days of Yule, there were more flies for me to kill, like some sort of weird sacrificial holiday ritual.

Was this a seasonal anomaly, I wonder: the usual autumn hatching, come late? Did I maybe bring them in with the Yule tree, or with the holly from the yard that I cut and brought in a couple of days before Midwinter's Eve?

A buddy of mine once made the observation that omens imply the out-of-place. To know what's unusual, you first have to know what's usual. (He was dating a Druid at the time who, out walking one day, picked up an oak leaf from the ground and said: Oh, it's an omen of great good luck to find an oak leaf! as if this were some nugget of ancient Druidic wisdom.  My friend thought: Um, it's November, and we're in a stand of oak trees. Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long.) In Minnesota, flies in late December are out of place. So what does it mean that I've had an infestation of flies through all the days of Yule?

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Eek!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think of flies as omens of tribulation. Each fly you dealt with per day would mean the number of tribulations you will face eac

assorted-color figurine collection bokeh photography

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Yule Ritual Plan

Planning a ritual in the time of Covid may require some adaptations. My kindred usually does winter holidays indoors, as illustrated by the picture above of last year's Yule, but this year we decided to do a bonfire outside in my back yard. Outdoor events are considered safer than indoor ones.

Ritual planning can require some forethought even if you've conducted a lot of rituals. Here are some ideas for an Asatru style Yule ritual, which other kinds of heathens, pagans, and polytheists might like to vik as well. (Asatruars sometimes semi-humorously say we are "viking" something, because that sounds so much cooler than "stealing.")

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

My hands-down favorite Jewsploitation film (yes, gods help us, there really is such a genre), is the campy, satirical 2003 Hebrew Hammer. Here's the story.

Evil gay Santa (hey, a little gratuitous homophobia always makes everything funnier, right?) formulates a plot to destroy all the other winter holidays by absorbing them into one big, undifferentiated Christmas blob.

So the Hebrew Hammer, a nebbishy Jewish superhero—he's straight, of course—teams up with the guy from the Kwanzaa Liberation Front (also straight) to foil evil gay Santa's evil plot.

 

Satire aside, you have to appreciate the very real problem that the film addresses. Christmas as we know it has become a cannibalistic microorganism that just wants to engulf all the other holiday amoebas in its environment.

Part of this, of course, is nicey-nice Kumbaya feel-goodism. See, we're really all just alike: we all celebrate at this time of year.

In fact, of course, we don't. Muslims, for instance, don't have a festival of lights at this time of year (or at all, really). Diwali, in late October or early November, is nowhere near the Christmas orbit.

Things get a little more complicated with Yule. Pagans like to think of Yule as the mother and Christmas the daughter festival, but that's really a pretty disingenuous reading of the relationship between the two. In fact—like it or not—our modern Yule has been reborn from the womb of Christmas, and the two holidays still look a lot (some of us would say, too much) alike.

Yes, it would be nice to think that, for a while, we can all just set aside our differences and celebrate together. But reducing all the other winter holidays to mere satellites of Christmas is no way to go about it.

So in fact, no, Yule is not the pagan Christmas, and we're not all just the same.

So what?

 

On Midwinter's Eve, we sing the Sun down from the highest hill in town and kindle a fire as it sets. This fire we keep burning all night. In the morning, we sing the Sun back up out of the Mississippi Valley.

Every year, as crows call overhead, and light and color stream back into the world after the year's longest night, I always think: this is it. This is real Yule, in the nutshell.

Let me tell you, it doesn't look anything like Christmas.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    When I was very young the Christmas decorations didn't go up until after Thanksgiving even in the stores. I remember being shocke

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