Monthly Archives: December 2012

Reflection on Renewal

The invigorating smell of cool, crisp air you take in deep and let out in a warm haze… Snow crackling under foot as you walk down a darkened path… The ticking of a clock as it nears midnight… A glass raised in a toast… A warm kiss with the one you love to welcome a new time…

New Year’s Eve is all of these and more. Whether celebrating with a group or alone, this season always brings about thoughts of the year to come and those that have passed. As one year turns into another, thoughts of renewal come to mind. There is a stripping of the old, worn facade and a building of a new, stronger, more resilient one.

What is renewal? According to Miriam-Webster, Renewal is “the act of saying or doing over again” or “the act or an instance of bringing something back to life, public attention, or vigorous activity.” It can also be said to be a reanimation, rebirth or revitalization.

Renewal is only a single piece of the puzzle that is you.  What was once strong can become pitted over time by stress both physical and emotional, by illness both physical and mental, and by a variety of other factors.  Sometimes you can’t control those factors, but there is always a chance, a rebirth of what once was, no matter how defeated you feel. The spark has always been there; one only need identify it, and re-grow it. One only needs fight to rekindle those embers of desire – burn down those self-imposed prisons of rejection and dejection and burn brighter than ever before.

There was a time when I was a strong, able bodied woman. I had a wonderful connection to everything around me.  I could walk down a busy city sidewalk and hear nothing but the trees whispering in the breeze, birds singing a storm. I could meditate and focus on the now and rarely feel anxiety or stress. That time has passed but needs renewing.  In a time of fast food, fast diets, fast exercise, it can be difficult to get back to basics, but restarting that energy is a necessary and healthy undertaking.

Renewal has been in the forefront of my mind for most of this year, but more so now than ever.  Not only is this year coming to a close, but so is my last year in my thirties.  As I age, I feel time more then ever whilst sensing its fluidity.  I’ve allowed life to overtake my spirit and my body. Both are in need of a rebirth of their own.  Many see this time of year as a spiritual opening to renewal of vows made, oaths taken, promises to be kept.  It is the inner and outer temples that must be renewed.

As I head into the New Year, a desire for renewal leads me. I feel called to delve deeper into my own reflection and the reflection of the world I create. It will be a revitalization that will strengthen and enlighten me, as it has before. For me, it is a reanimation of myself to strengthen my body, to sharpen my mind, and by extension renew that spirit that burned so bright – a phoenix raised from the ashes.

What reflection has renewal brought to you?

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Crowwitch is a spectacular balance of chaos and order. This energetic hockey, soccer, ringette, karate, mom works hard to keep up with her two brilliantly funny children, and enjoy some quiet time with her devoted partner in the evenings. She also maintains a personal website called Crowwitch.

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More Good Things to Come

Golden ball

Even now, I can sit in front of our Yule tree for hours gazing at the twinkling lights, the sparkling glass ornaments, and the shimmering ribbons and bows, lost in Christmases past. As a child I loved to sit at the foot of the tree, among the presents, daydreaming as I basked in its glow. Christmas was much more to me than the acquiring of gifts. It was, rather, a magical season ripe with wonder and warmth. There was sacredness to Christmas time that I understood deep within.

Today I celebrate as a Pagan, but the Yule season has lost none of its magic for no longer being centered on the birth of Jesus. It is no secret that Christianity borrowed many traditions from pagan winter celebrations. I am very glad they did, for this beautiful blending of pagan and Christian tradition is what makes it so easy for my family to enjoy the holidays together even though we are of different faiths. While most of my family remains Christian, and my partner Doug and I are Heathen, we still find meaning and enjoyment in common symbols, customs, songs and rituals. We can still share Turkey dinner, exchange gifts, sing carols and enjoy our time together as a family.

In our household, we observe the twelve days of Yule from December 21st to January 1st. It begins with Mother’s Night (inspired from traditional Anglo-Saxon paganism as well as the Norse Disablot) and at this time we honour the mothers and matriarchs of our families, living and dead. In Heathenry, the idises or disir are powerful female ancestral spirits often thought to be guardians and guides to their descendants. This Mother’s Night is especially important to us, as it is my first as a new mother. We continue to keep Christmas Eve and Christmas Day mostly as they were, with Christmas Eve being a time to spend with family watching movies or playing games and staying up late to catch a glimpse of Father Yule, who brings gifts and blessings, while on Christmas Day we open presents and feast. On the night of December 31st, we drink to the Wild Hunt and pray that it passes us by without taking us, as it sweeps up the remnants of the old year in a cold wind, and the dawning New Year follows in its wake.

There are many wonderful traditions and enchanting myths which surround Yuletide, and though I adore all of these, the whole sacred season culminates to this (cheesy at it may be): love of others and the potential for good. Spreading goodwill and cheer, being charitable and kind, reaching out to family and friends, setting differences aside, showing our appreciation of others (human or god, living or dead) with gifts and ceremony, feasting and reveling together and wishing to spend the next year in each other’s company – these are all things which we can share, whether we are Pagan or Christian or Atheist or something else. And we can all feel the special magic generated by these good things, and the potential for more good things to come.

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Natasha D

Natasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

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Holiday Traditions

Finding a few spare moments in which to be quiet and contemplative can be difficult during these busy holiday times, yet I find making the effort to do so is always worth it. It’s easy to lose the focus of what the holidays mean to us: is it a religious holiday, a time for family and friends, a few days off work, or celebrating the change of seasons? This time of year means something different to us all. Here is what it means to me.

Before I followed a pagan path, the Christmas holidays were a time of excitement about Santa and presents, and having time off school to play in the snow. Christmas dinner was always an event, and I enjoyed eating foods that we never had any other time of the year. The “specialness” of it all wowed me: special decorations, special foods, special songs. We went to church on Christmas Eve. I loved how our little log cabin church was always so warm and cozy and how everyone in the congregation contributed to that feeling.

One of my favourite Christmas Eve traditions came when we moved East and started going to a new church. This church had a long-standing and beautiful tradition. Everyone in the congregation was given a thin white candle to hold for later in the service. When most of the service was complete, all of the lights in the church were turned off. The only light came from a tall pillar candle at the front. As we all began to sing “Silent Night,” the light from that candle was passed to the people in the front of the church, who in turn passed it back, row by row. Soon the church was filled with the glow of a hundred points of light, the light brought forth from the darkness.

Now I do follow a pagan path, and this return of the light means even more to me now. I celebrate the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, and the return of the light the next morning. The sun is born again that day and light slowly returns to the world. This return of the light is symbolized or mythologized in a variety of ways. It could be the Goddess giving birth to the young God, or the triumph of the Oak King over the Holly King. Whatever the symbolism, the purpose and meaning is the same. We have survived the dark, the light now triumphs, and the promise of the return of the light has been fulfilled.

So how do you celebrate at this time of year? Do you notice the light returning? Do you mark the transition from dark to light? Are you like me over this time, filling my face with good food and spending time with my family? I’d love to hear about your traditions and what this time means to you.

Welcome to the holidays!

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ang

Angela has been following her pagan path for over 17 years. When she is not blogging or promoting Treewise, Angela knits, runs her own business, and falls a lot while trying to play roller derby.

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Hope on Solstice Night

Imagine it’s a cold and clear Winter’s night on Canada’s East Coast, and two friends are walking down a dimly lit and snow covered street. A biting wind pushes down the lane and steals their breath, carrying the sound of a mournful howl. Looking up to the heavens, they watch a falling star burn slowly across the sky. One of the friends buries his face in the scarf around his neck while he trudges along, the experience already forgotten. The other stops in his tracks and stares up at the night sky. Years later he remembers the night vividly, including the something it stirred inside him.

Neither of these friends have to follow a specific spiritual path. It isn’t as though these inspirations are only intended for one religion or culture. Sacred or magical events simply happen, and hopefully our spirituality has given us a vocabulary and a set of tools to do something with them. Even a person that wouldn’t call themselves spiritual might be moved by a falling star. In the above story, what really separates these two friends is that one of them was open to the experience.

There has been a lot of media attention concerning the end of the Mayan calendar on the 2012 Winter Solstice. Even if most of the hype is misinformation and propaganda, it may be giving the world an opportunity. If people have it in their mind that things could change, then that improves the chances that things might change. With no cataclysmic event, some will reflect on what it all could have been leading up to…and hopefully it shows them something personal and spiritual.

From tarot cards to Ragnarok, our symbolism reminds us that when a cycle ends it is not the end of everything. It’s letting one thing go, to allow another to begin. Most pagans are familiar with the cycles of days, weeks, and years. These aren’t just measurements of time, but times of awakening and growth followed by decay eventually leading again to awakening. What if everything around the 2012 hype is just one more cycle, thousands of years in the making? What if the spiritual challenges of our recent past are a necessary decline, to allow for the opportunity for something greater to grow? Whatever may come, will we bury our faces in our scarves and trudge on…or do we raise our eyes to the sky made clearer for the cold and dare to hope?

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Mike C Mike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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