Winter Solstice/Yule Online Coven Gathering

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Anyone is welcomed to join us!

WHEN:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

TIME:

6:00 to 7:00 PM CT

The Sacred Circle starts at 6:15 PM CT SHARP. Please be considerate and be on time or wait until 7:00 PM CT to join us for visiting after the circle has been opened!

WHERE:

Coven Life Chat Room

For information on how to find and get into the chat room or to figure out your local time please check out the banner on the left side of Coven Life Home Page.

PLAN FOR THE CIRCLE

Please click on this link to read the ritual we will be doing: http://covenlife.co/2015/12/07/winter-solsticeyule-ritual-for-coven-gathering-sunday-december-20-2015/

Just because it says coven does not mean you have to be in the coven to attend. All Pagans are welcome to join us! If you have any questions about the gathering please email me at ladybeltane@aol.com I look forward to many of us coming together to celebrate this wonderful Sabbat.

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for December 16th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

To be in harmony with others, we must be in tune with ourselves. This is not always a state of mind easily come by, but necessary and possible to those who truly want to put their best foot forward.

They must cultivate and re-cultivate the things that make peace within themselves. They must not only have faith, but they must depend upon it, drawing from it energizing joy, love, and lightness of heart. They must know and understand the moods and manners of their coworkers and express to their colleagues their happiness and enthusiasm for the good things of life.

At times everyone has fits of uncertainty concerning their way of life. And it is gratifying to have someone capable of lifting us out of the blues and scattering the doldrums. But the job is mainly ours. We have to cross examine ourselves again and again to be sure there’s nothing that will not contribute to our best self, or draw less than the best from others.

To be cooperative is not only beneficial to associations with others, but to our own health, peace, and happiness. Let there be peace and harmony and let it begin with me.

 

____________________________

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – December 16

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – December 16

“If you have one hundred people who live together, and if each one cares for the rest, there is One Mind.”

–Shining Arrows, CROW

One of the principles of Community is Unity. The alignment of thoughts in groups of people will cause One Mind to form. One Mind is Unity. Each individual in the community must align their thoughts with what other members are thinking. If all the people think of helping one another, then the community will be service oriented and powerful results will be enjoyed. Having our thoughts aligned within a group will cause our children to experience a positive environment. When they have children, the grandchildren will automatically experience these results also.

My Creator, help me to contribute to positive group thought.

 

December 16 – Daily Feast

December 16 – Daily Feast

Like anything else, if one is prepared to meet winter rather than cower at the thought, it is an excellent time to be happy and alive. When we are warm on the inside and we have no excessive fears, we can lean into the wind and pace ourselves to breathe the cold air and taste the snow without absorbing it. We were created to take domination over these things and it is time we proved it. But as long as there is one other person who is not warm, who does not see beauty, we can’t be too comfortable not immune to winter.

~ I will ask him (the white man) to understand his ways, then I will prepare the way for my children. ~

MANY HORSES – OGLALA SIOUX,  1890

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

 

The Daily Motivator for December 16th – Grace and integrity

Grace and integrity

by Ralph Marston

Do the hard stuff. The hard stuff is what brings new value into the world.

Commit to excellence, never failing to honor that commitment. Though you know it is not easy, you also know it is best.

Embrace difficult challenges. Somebody has to push life forward, and you are just the person to do it.

Think, speak, act and live with responsibility. Set a positive example, showing all the world how good life can be when it is lived with no excuses.

Be always deeply thankful for the possibilities, for the beauty, for it all. Abundance grows when it is recognized and appreciated.

Add joy to each moment. Meet, then exceed life’s demands, and with grace and integrity, live it well.

© 2015 Ralph S. Marston, Jr.
From The Daily Motivator website at http://greatday.com/motivate/151216.html

The Daily OM for December 16th – Serving Your Community

Serving Your Community
Giving the Gift of You

by Madisyn Taylor

Being of service to our community is part of being a good citizen of the planet earth.

To live harmoniously, we need to be supportive and helpful to all people, creatures, and plant life that share this earth with us. While “being of service” is part of being a good citizen of the world, it also feels good to help others. When we do something for others in service, without the expectation of anything in return, we are turning our actions into offerings.

There are many ways to be of service to our community. There are the obvious and much needed volunteer opportunities, such as serving Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter, mentoring our youth, or cleaning up a beach. Then, there is the kind of service that we may not even think of as being acts of service. Learning a new language (perhaps sign language) so that you can talk to more people is a way to reach out to others. Inviting someone who isn’t motivated enough to exercise on their own to join you on your daily walk is a way to give of yourself. Sharing flowers or vegetables from your garden, organizing a poetry reading, offering to babysit for a busy parent, or donating pet food to an animal shelter all are simple ways to offer your services to your community.

There are many ways that you can serve the world. Imagine the impact we would have on the environment if we picked up one piece of trash off the street everyday and chose not to drive our car once a week. Even gardening tactics such as throwing wildflower seeds onto a vacant lot can brighten the lives of others – including the lives of birds and insects. Everyday, you can do something to make this world a better place. During meditation, ask for guidance on what you can do to be of service. This can be a wonderful way to start your day. Smiling at a stranger who looks down in the dumps or teaching your neighborhood kids how to whistle will impact someone’s day or even their life. Giving of yourself is the best gift that you can give.

 

Source:
Daily OM

Flashback 2007 – Winter Solstice

Coven Life®

Yule

The longest night of the year marks the return of the Sun and the lengthening of days, a time of introspection, and celebration od endurance and the powers of hope.

Winter Solstice is a time of gathering with friends, family, and neighbors to share the stored abundance of the previous harvest and make ready for the long winter ahead. This sabbat is an affirmation of hope.

Yule is both a Scandinavian and Germanic festival marking the winter holiday. The decorating of trees, the singing of songs and telling of stories, hot spiced drinks, and sacred pine boughs all have their roots in Pagan Winter Solstice and Yule practices. Deer and their association with the Horned God Cernunnos have also survived in modern celebrations. Ancient Druids harvested mistletoe from Sacred Oaks to hang in the doorways of homes to ensure the blessings of the Sacred Groves and for good luck.

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Flashback 2007 -Summer Solstice

Coven Life®

The longest day and shortest night of the year, and known to the Druids as Alban Heruin, Solstice marks the height of the Sun’s powers and the beginning og their decline as the wheel of the year turns. Celebrations are filled with marriages, music, dancing, racing, feasting, and rituals. Young animals and new babies have replenished the community.

Stonehenge was aligned to the Summer Solstice Sun about 4,000 years ago. Each year, thousands of modern pagans and Witches gather at Stonehenge in celebration of the Summer Solstice, attesting to the widespread importance of this day in cultures around the world.

Summer Solstice is sacred to the Horse Goddess Epona. She is a Mother Goddess of the fruits of the fields and orchards, and represents abundance; the cornucopia is a symbol of Epona’s bounty.

Copyright Abby Willowroot Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2007 Page 77

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Wiccan Parenting in December

Wiccan Parenting in December

Author: Jessica Marie Baumgartner 

Raising young Wiccans is a journey that takes parents through a series of complex emotions. When my first daughter was born I wanted her to grow up with the freedom to choose her own path but have the knowledge and traditions of my own faith. Now that I have two young girls, the importance of teaching them both the female and male aspects of the Gods and nature is so important to my husband and me. We struggled with Christian family members in the beginning, but after much discussion and perseverance the faith embraced within my household is accepted.

Luckily, being that my husband and I work very hard to have the lifestyle that we do. Our children are being raised with the knowledge that our family is a bit different from others. I try to emphasize that although we may seem quite a bit different, that everybody is different in his or her own way and each family has their own traditions. As I survive another December holiday season though, I can’t help but become a bit more protective. Children are so impressionable and the commercialism of Christianity seems to consume the entire country.

It has been a long set plan that my husband and I would limit material possessions, a wonderful concept that is easy to put into play except when family and friends of other faiths want to shower your children with gifts one month out of the year. I see so many children who complain about not having this or that and parents who just give in constantly. Yes, it is positive to allow children toys and games and a certain amount of appropriate belongings, and yes, of course, my husband and I appreciate the thought that comes along with each gift. But when people go out and buy a gift for someone just because there is a holiday sale, is it really that thoughtful?

I can’t blame most people. I myself get a little shopping brainwashed just watching the evening news. There are so many ads. I just remind myself that I don’t want my daughters growing up to be spoiled brats who buy into a faith or a holiday because some television corporation tells them to. This is why although I do not celebrate Jesus’ birth, I respect the Christians who buy a cake and sing Happy Birthday instead of showering each other with expenditures.

The line between materialism and commercialism is a hard one to walk. My husband and I are constantly trying to find a balance wherein our daughters can enjoy toys like Disney princesses and not be obsessed. We do our best to mix educational toys with a few of the more mainstream ones in addition to toys that I make myself. It is amazing what yarn and a crochet hook can make or some wood and carving tools. These handmade toys are ones that my daughters treasure and feel a special bond to.

Toys are not the only December excess that often puts a damper on my Yule celebration due to an over Christianization of society, but there are also all of those television specials. Limiting a child’s TV time seems imperative nowadays but it is fun to do some co viewing of an appropriate program with a child. After having my first child, I understood why my Jewish friends always said that they hated Christmas. In years past, I would wake up Thanksgiving morning and make food for the big family celebrations while watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I wasn’t too keen on all the Christmas stuff but took it with a grain of salt.

Unfortunately, children do not have the knowledge to filter out many of the message pushed in such a display. During my daughter’s first holiday season I was watching the parade with her and realized that not only was the entire parade a giant commercial, it was also one big Santa Claus celebration. I have nothing against Christmas parades, but why does Christmas have to take over Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a holiday that has no religious bounds; everyone in America celebrates it.

I myself was raised Catholic so finding my own way has been quite a journey. Part of my family tradition was watching Christmas specials, something that I do miss. I don’t miss the specific specials themselves, but the feeling associated with them. After being a Wiccan for over a decade and becoming a mom, I have been lucky enough to understand that my daughters enjoy the entire wheel of the year equally instead of waiting all year for one holiday. That makes me feel like I am doing something right; in addition to that, I did find a couple of really sweet solstice cartoons.

My sister came upon the “Little Bear Winter Solstice” episode from Nickelodeon; it’s a beautiful celebration of Yule and even available on amazon.com. I stumbled across Kung Fu Panda Holiday last year and am happy to have it. These specials mean so much to my family and I, not because we need to watch a show involving our faith to be validated, but because they are inclusive. So much of the month of December is centered on excluding people who don’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukah due to either lack of knowledge or lack of understanding, and I, for one, don’t feel that it is right to celebrate a holiday that I don’t necessarily believe in. I respect others’ right to their celebrations and faiths, but it is nice to be able to celebrate my faith alongside others and to pass that faith onto my children.

My daughters enjoy December just like many other children, without a mountain of presents, a giant fat man who breaks into their house, or commercials on parade. Even at their young ages, they understand that family is the most important element of a celebration and that as long as we are together we can celebrate life and all of its gifts. I love being a Wiccan and I love raising my daughters as such. It is a more difficult road with very little direction, but in following my heart, I have found the warmest season can be every season.

Yules Lessons from Days of Yore: Perfect Love, Perfect Trust

Yules Lessons from Days of Yore: Perfect Love, Perfect Trust

Author: Morbek

This is the season to celebrate! Over one third of the people on our planet celebrate the birth of a God around winter solstice. Point-two percent of the world’s population celebrate a major holiday of light during this time and twenty-two percent of our brothers and sisters in the family of man have a celebration of new beginnings and, a week or so later, another holy day, which commemorates freedom. All of this celebrating occurs around the Yuletide season. For Wiccans and Pagans, we celebrate the birth of the God and the waxing of his power as the days from Yule will get longer which leaves the night less frightening because it is getting shorter and less intimidating.

So, why even think about other religions during our holy season of Yule? I can sum it up in two words… Available Energy! With all the positive vibes roaming around think of the amazing magic that can happen if we harness and direct that energy for the good of our home. Well over half of mother Earths population considers this time of year sacred and, in western countries; those that are not religious still exude positive energy due to the consumer driven need to present gifts to one another in the spirit of Santa. That is a lot of people putting out positive vibrations!

Merry making is, indeed, infectious. Think of the community events, the parties that are held both in our workplace and our homes, the carols that are played twenty four seven by various media outlets, decking the halls and dressing up our pets that goes on in our culture. I will diligently search every year (and then be sure to watch) for Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas because it’s not the same on DVD as it is on commercial TV. The deeply held traditions anyone who celebrates during the Yule tied season adds a type of power boost to the energy already being exuded into the environment.

Do I feel that we should greedily gather up all of this energy and use it for our selfish ends? Absolutely not…no way! That point may be moot anyway. A great deal of the sentiment in our surroundings is that of giving and loving nature. I would be hard pressed to manipulate it so that it would become egocentric. I am a lazy person by nature and that sounds to me like way too much work just to attain something that I could have acquired with other magic or by simply going to a store. The attempt would leave me way too exhausted to trim the Yule tree. What, then, do I think we should do with it and why?

Let’s examine the basis of the season and discuss what drives human beings to celebrate our planets personal star’s return into our lives. The apparent reason for the season is the New Year aspect. Back in the day, thousands of years ago when knowing the seasons was a matter of life and death for the entire group, not just an individual, people had to know when the shortest day of the year was so that they could allocate their remaining resources in order to survive until mother Earth, once again, shared her bounty with all. But there must be more to it than that. After all, in a season where ancient man had to be frugal out of necessity, traditions of benevolent works arose and persist to this day!

From an anthropologic point of view, we could discuss all manner of reasons for this to be occurring but the most likely one is, in my mind, the need to draw closer to each other. We need love and acceptance. What better way to foster those emotions in others than by kindness? I expect that when humans were still nomadic or just beginning to settle into an agricultural lifestyle, kindness was a rare commodity. I find it hard believe that (wo) man didn’t desire to be kind; I just don’t think that there was a lot of time and opportunity to exhibit philanthropically motivated deeds. Life was short and hard what with procuring food and water, internal and external tribal struggles as well as trying to understand the greater world around an individual.

In a time of meager reserves, giving to another from what is essential rather than what is surplus without expecting payment of any kind would be seen as the ultimate act of perfect love and perfect trust. The act would have made a deep impression upon the receiver and any bystanders in the immediate area. It would have caused quite a commotion and, as we all know, humans love to gossip. There is no way that anyone can convince me that thousands of years ago, even before the advent of the city, (wo) man didn’t enjoy telling and retelling of an event that profoundly touched them. Every time the story was told, the original emotions were felt and the deed was imprinted a little deeper into the person’s psyche. The next thing you know, that person is committing similar acts of kindness and the circle begins again.

In order for my theory to be valid, one must recognize that there is an inherent and ancient respect for the concepts of perfect love and perfect trust. The people that walk upon this planet have known for millennia that if you live by those philosophies, you will live a wonderful life filled with more joy than sorrow.

Back to all that mirth filled energy! If you intend to do something for our world this Yule, as I do, take hold of as much of that joyous stuff as you can handle and visualize healing. Our planet needs to be healed from pollution, over grazing from stock animals and way too much concrete and blacktop. The animals that are supposed to continue evolving need healing in order to adapt and progress along the paths that are intended for them. They need proper habitat and to be untouched, as much as possible, by the hands of (wo) man. Last but not least, the amazing creatures that can ponder the problems and devise solutions need healing as well. Humans are struggling to become more than just a flesh sack that reacts to stimuli.

I have noticed throughout the years that spirituality is becoming, more and more, a central focus of many of my brothers and sisters in this very large family. The wounds that need healing are immense gashes in our spirits: fear, jealousy, hypocrisy, greed and loneliness. Those wounds lead to behaviors such as; addiction, selfishness, emotional pain that must be countered with physical pain and a worldwide economy that is in such a horrific state of hopelessness that the innocents among us are the ones who are paying the price. And that price is very high! It includes hunger, illness, illiteracy and homelessness. Saddest fact of all: Our children are the ones who are paying the largest percentage of that bill.

That list has been around for as long as we have been able to acknowledge ourselves as spiritual beings in a material world. We strive, generation after generation, to lessen the effects that those infections of the soul have on our lives. Now, with a little help from the witches, that healing can begin in earnest because the available energy that we will be using is already imprinted with the best desires that we have deep within ourselves.

Feel the amazing power that surrounds us this time of year, remember that it is borne from perfect love and perfect trust, visualize what you believe to be remedies for a planet and its’ inhabitants who are ill and send all of that imprinted energy out into the universe to work the amazing miracles that we know are just waiting in the wings for someone who respects, understands and strives to live within the construct of perfect love and perfect trust to give those miracles the cue to enter the stage and start dazzling all of us with the healing and understanding that we all need.

May you have a blessed Yule Tide season!

Spiritual Aspects of Yule

Spiritual Aspects of Yule

Author: Crick 

As we approach the season of Yule (Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan) , I personally find myself entering a state of both celebration and reflection. When I reach out and touch the heartbeat of Mannuz, I can sense the intense joy of our Sacred Mother. For her son, our God, is about to be reborn, thus completing yet another segment in the Wheel of Life. When we entered the New Year, which commenced with Samhain and began our life travels anew, I found myself filled with an anticipation and excitement of that which is yet to unfold.

But before I look too far ahead, I muse on that which went before. The highs and the lows of the preceding year, that are now all but fading memories. For each experience is a contribution to our spiritual growth, whether it had a positive or negative impact.

I personally feel that spiritual knowledge is a gift and that the more knowledge that one attains that the greater the gift becomes. And there is no greater gift then that of a life experience that has had some effect on our lives.

As the wheel of the year slowly turned, there were at times life experiences that seemed insurmountable, but we found a way over. There were life experiences that caused so much grief, that we cried a river of tears, but we found a way across. And of course there were life experiences that had us laughing so deeply that we could barely catch a breath, but we found a way to breathe.

And so though the past year has been bittersweet, there is still much to rejoice about within the coming Yuletide season.

It is no secret that some religious belief systems have superimposed the alleged birth date of their God over that of the God of the pagans. This was done, in spite of the fact that the placement of the constellations from that period speaks otherwise. But then Yule is not a time to foment ill will, even if an established cause could be presented.

Instead I feel empathy for those who worship a distant and revengeful God to the exclusion of the Sacred Mother, for they are missing out on some of the most ancient joys of life. For not only do we as pagans have such a deep and enduring love from our Mother, but we also draw strength and wisdom from our sacred father. And between the two, we as pagans have an opportunity to walk the spiritual path with a steady sense of balance. It is through our own perspectives and actions that we maintain this balance or fall out of stride.

As individuals, the choice is ours to make. We have the opportunity to draw upon the spiritual aspects offered by both our Sacred Mother and Sacred Father in order to advance within our spiritual growth.

Yule is a feisty, twelve-day period of celebration, a time during which, feasting is a common activity. But while we feast on food to sustain the physical self, it is also a time to feast on the experiences of the year past in order to sustain knowledge for the journey ahead.
Yule is a time of reflection, then acceptance and then of moving on.

Upon the longest night of the year, our God is re-born from the slumbers of death. He brings with him the sacred light by way of the Sun. And from this moment forth the fertility of the land is once again restored. And so too are the fertility of fresh thoughts and new goals introduced into our hearts and souls. Our spirits cherish this moment of his birth for it is a time to shed the chains of the experiences past and to surge forth with a renewed purpose in our lives. The birth of our Sun God is an affirmation that life goes on and that the door to spiritual growth stands wide open.

Yule is a time to celebrate both the joys and the sorrows we have experienced up to this point. For both aspects, that of light and that of dark have strived to offer us knowledge of life that we can use to build upon as we travel forth. The rebirth of the Sun God, who brings so much joy to the heart of our Goddess is a sign that even within the darkness one can always find a ray of light. For his birth marks the time when the Oak King vanquishes the Holly King. This analogy of victory represents the power of light overcoming the power of darkness. This represents a balance and a sense of hope in the challenges of life that await each of us.

The nights become shorter and the days become longer as life begins to stir within the grasp of the Winter Solstice in anticipation of the coming of Spring.

It is a time to realize that no matter how tough or insurmountable a barrier may seem, we have been given the gift of our life experiences as a tool to achieve our spiritual goals.

As a time of celebration, Yule is also a time to be with family and close friends with which to share the joy of our Blessed Mother as she smiles with anticipation at the thought of reuniting with her son, as the time of the sacred birth draws near. For from such relationships we receive the gifts of love. And like a seed that has laid dormant, awaiting the warm touch of the Sun to sprout forth and prosper, we should take heed and allow these moments of love to define our actions and our mind set as we venture forth into the approaching segments of the wheel of life. To let such an experience to wither away with the passing of Yule is to cast such a special gift asunder.

And so with that I wish each of you a very joyous celebration of our Sun God.

Mother Wit for Yule

Mother Wit for Yule

Author: Sia@FullCircle 

I have a quote button on my office bulletin board that says:

“I am the Mother of All Things and All Things should wear a sweater”

Good advice, that. I keep it there to remind me that the Mother Goddess I know is warm hearted, nurturing and very, very practical. Like all good mothers she gently reminds me what is important and what isn’t. I need those reminders on a regular basis and never more so than at Yule.

Don’t get me wrong; I love this time of year. I love the change in the air and in the earth. I love watching the migration of birds and making the wonderful foods that come with cold weather. But I also dread this time of year because with it comes a secular horror I refer to as “Xmas”. (1)

Xmas, the cause of so much winter discontent, is the reason I used to overspend, overeat, and overwork myself in a flurry of Martha Stewart-like activity. But no matter what I did, I could never do enough, buy enough, bake enough or decorate enough to make myself happy.

Xmas stress and the unreal expectations that come with it added to the seasonal depression I already feel this time of year from lack of sunlight. This is not a good time for me to wander through crowds of grumpy, discourteous human beings. Don’t even get me started on the music.

Xmas, I noticed, isn’t just bad for me alone, it is also very bad for the planet. Think of all those landfills packed with wrapping papers, plastic cartons, tinsel and the other non-biodegradable remains of the season. Bah! I said, “down and double down with Xmas”.

So I opted out. I called friends to see how they felt about it. “Would you mind not exchanging gifts this year?” I asked. Every one of them said “No, not at all” in what I can only describe as relieved tones. I now keep a loving, gift giving circle that consists of those people with whom I share special ties. Within that circle of friends and family the adults agreed to keep their gift buying below a certain price, thus making the holiday easier on all of us. I still go a little wild when it comes to giving gifts to my friend’s children but I also take them on walks in the woods, teach them to bake cookies or have them over for a movie night. I’ve found that their parents appreciate having some time off and I get to play Aunt as much as I like.

I was much happier in winter after that, but I still felt something was missing in my life. Then I started on a Pagan path and discovered Yule & Solstice. It is here that I find the joy and meaning in winter.

Yule and Solstice are holidays in tune with our own rhythms. The energy of Gaia becomes dormant, yet remains vital. So too, does my spirit. In my tradition, this is a time for reflection. The animals follow their instincts and take to their dens and shelters. We humans also need a bit of rest and quiet. For me, that is the peaceful meaning of Yule. Add to that the beauty and hope of Solstice; a time of dark, cold reality made easier by the hope we hold of a warmer, more prosperous future. Keeping watch at Solstice links us to our friends in the present day and to our Pagan ancestors long since past.

I began to take back the things of the past many seasons ago. That tree for one thing, that World Tree, that’s mine. And those bright, hopeful candles are mine again, as well. This is a festival of light, after all. That circle called a wreath is mine, so too, the holly bush. Before I became Pagan, I was always drawn to pictures of a stag standing alone in snow. I’d see this design in different forms over the years and it always spoke to me. Now I know why. And look at that old Shaman dressed in furs. He’s mine now, too. He was lost for a time, selling sodas if you can believe it, but he’s back again where he belongs. He still brings gifts, but the gifts he offers are very different than the ones I’d known before.

Yule is also a time for good company and feasting. For our ancestors this was the time when the Harvest was in and the clan gathered to celebrate. Whatever they had gathered or grown that year is all they had to live on until spring. There’s hope in that and terror, too. They knew to watch warily for the winter storms and to fear the floods and freezing temperatures that followed. No merchant ships could bring in supplies in such weather and the game they had hunted so easily in summer was now scarce. This is the time when Death stalked the weak, the sick, the very young and the very old. For that reason this was a time to gather together with friends around the fire. You and I take pleasure in celebrating with our friends and family. For us, such gatherings make for a pleasant diversion. For them it was a matter of survival. “Send out the call to feast”, they said, “and gather the Clan. For we need to know who to count on in the dark days ahead and who will need our support.”

Gifts were exchanged during this season for a variety of reasons. The most important one of all was to strengthen the bonds of family and tribe. Only the very rich could afford to be frivolous in this regard. The rest of us needed and exchanged useful items like needles and cloth, knives and arrows, food, pots or clothing. These things didn’t sit on a shelf, unused, unwanted and gathering dust. They were thoughtfully given and gratefully received because they were needed. Gifts in those days were serious business.

Shamans used this time to meditate and to gather strength and spirit for the long, dark months ahead. I find that I also need to be alone. Sometimes I feel sad, and no wonder; it’s a dark time of the year in more ways than one. Yule invites us to listen to that still, small voice inside ourselves. Go back into the cave for a while and come out again in spring. Change comes in this way. So does renewal.

I want that renewal. In order to get it, I have to avoid the temptation to turn Yule into a Pagan form of Xmas. For if I am not careful, I will get caught up in another round of gift giving, partying and pressure. Some Pagans I know feel pressured to buy Yule gifts for every Pagan friend, Circle member and teacher. If you look at the amount of money and time they spend on Yule and add that to their Xmas obligations, then our splendid holiday could easily become a burden instead of a blessing.

I realize that merchants have to make a living. How could I not? I make my own living that way. But I wouldn’t want anyone to buy things from me that don’t enrich their life or bring them joy. Gifts are for me, as they were for my ancestors, a serious business. This makes me uniquely qualified to offer absolution to any Pagan who needs it and so I will: Trust your instincts here and use your head, as well as your heart. Buy what and as you like but not so much that you suffer next year. None of your friends and family members will be better off if you do that. We are a kind of tribe. Let’s think like one. The good of one of us is the good of all.

Now some of the Pagans I know make or bake every single one of their Yule gifts. I admire their skill and the effort this takes. But as much as I love the crafty part of The Craft, I’ve found that for me, personally, making all my gifts takes up too much of my free time. I’ve learned over the years to carefully preserve some time at Yule to be my loved ones. I am even more jealous of the time I need for myself. I’d make a pretty poor Priestess, otherwise.

The social and sacred rounds pose a challenge for me, as well. I could exhaust myself by attending every Pagan ritual, concert, drumming circle and party or I could go the other way and worry that I’m not doing enough. Some of these “How To” Pagan manuals make it look like everyone else but me is out there having a magical time of it. As I said, I could go down either path but then I might forget that an obsession with people and things was never good for my spirit in the first place. I want my practice to make me more centered and more whole, not more fractured and stressed.

And so I keep that quote button on my bulletin board. It reminds me that the Great Mother encourages me to stay warm, healthy and balanced. She would like me to laugh a bit more and to enjoy time with my friends and she also wants me to spend some time just gazing into the fire. These are the gifts she put into the Shaman’s bag. Like I said, she’s very practical.

Take care of yourselves this season.

Blessed Yule to you and yours,

Sia