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Crafting Traditions

As we move into the time of the year that we call "the holidays", I've been thinking a lot about traditions. No, not Pagan Traditions with a capital "T". The traditions I'm talking about are more like rituals when you think about it. Its those little or big things you do with your family or on your own that mark a special time. You do them consistently and probably look forward to doing them. You might even feel like you absolutely have to do them. None of us are strangers to family obligations.

My family has a lot of  little traditions that most people probably could identify since they don't seem that out of the ordinary. But as I get older and start making my own traditions, I'm realizing just how special the traditions I grew up with were. Thanksgiving is a great example. My mother didn't often host it at her house. It was common knowledge that my aunt had Thanksgiving. We had hosted Christmas Eve. And Christmas day? No one does anything on Christmas day other than exchange gifts and eat Christmas eve leftovers. The first snow of the season meant I got a ride on Papa's snowmobile (pictured). Its those little things unique to my family that make this time of year special and powerful.

When I started practicing Wicca at a young age, my family was fortunately very welcoming and accommodating. The first year (when I was 12) I tried to get my presents a few days early in time for Yule, although that part didn't go over so well. Instead, I gave everyone else their little handmade gifts on the solstice. It probably meant more to me than it did them, but it made me feel like I had an original part to play in the family process. An activity I could call my own. I had made my own tradition!

As the years grew on, my family and siblings really started to look forward to Yule day as a nice little pre-Christmas observance. It was an excuse to do something fun before Christmas day, to eek a little something extra out of the holidays. My younger sisters loved it the most, knowing they would be getting gifts several days before the 25th. But gifts aside, starting that tradition meant that I got to celebrate the solstice with my family in what little ways I could. I got to talk about the meaning of it with them. Eventually, they began to appreciate the spiritual meaning behind the day. Now when I can make it home early enough to visit the family for Yule, I invite them to make a juice toast to the sun with me on solstice morning. Regardless of whether they want to make me happy or if it feeds them spiritually isn't of much concern to us. They celebrate with me, I celebrate with them, and family is drawn closer together as a result.

As I get older and begin forging holiday traditions with my chosen family (my partner, our roommate, and the cats), I begin to see that these traditions are more than just lovely mundane rituals to occupy our time. They are long-term spells that cause change to occur deep within our souls and the soul of our family.

In an esoteric view, family traditions are part of the family egregore, the collective group mind that feeds into and from us. Participating in and forging new traditions brings strength to the egregore and ensures its continued health throughout the year. When my family goes through a difficult time, we rely on the egregore and the memories and experiences it contains to help see us through.

As magick-workers, we have opportunities to forge new traditions with energetic intentions in mind. We can look to the past and present to consciously influence our future. As we approach the solstice and reflect on the coming light, let us sew the seeds of new traditions for ourselves and our beloved communities. The future is in our hands and its up to us to make it a great one.

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David Salisbury is a queer, vegan, Witch and author experiencing life in our nations capital. David is Wiccan clergy within the Firefly Tradition and is High Priest of Coven of the Spiral Moon, a Firefly coven based in DC. The focal point of his spiritual practice is one of service, activism and respect. To fulfill this vocation, he is a full time employee with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization. He is the author of The Deep Heart of Witchcraft (Moon Books, 2013) and Teen Spirit Wicca (Soul Rocks, 2014).


  • Carol Frierson
    Carol Frierson Wednesday, 05 December 2012

    Thank you David! I was just commenting last month on how wonderful it is that my children are now old enough to really get into our own chosen family traditions! We would always go to another family members house for Thanksgiving dinner, but this year we decided to start our own tradition. We all worked together (me, hubby and my son and daughter) to cook the entire meal at home. When we began to eat, we each stated hilariously all of the things we were thankful for. Some were heartwarming, some were very suprising, and some were just down right silly! We had a blast! Then we each chose our favorite movies to watch while we were overstuffed with all the food and too lazy to move.... and that's all we did! In fact, they were all so happy with our special Thanksgiving, they both said they will also carry these traditions on to thier own children! They are both teen-agers, so this really meant a lot to me! I feel like most teen-agers are perfectly miserable, just because they think they are supposed to be! That night, as I reflected back on our super awesome day....I cried... the first tears of joy... that I can remember in a very long time! I don't think I would have gotten to this point if I had not decided to follow my particular path. My spirituality has brought me and my family so much more good and positivity than I ever thought was possible.

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