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The Sober Pagan

November 1st, 2018

“H.A.L.T.”! Before You Continue Into The Holiday Season!

One of the discussions lately in the rooms of AA – at least here locally – is how to get through the holiday season without relapsing. As someone who has been around recovery for a while, I find my best bet is to stay home and enjoy my own company. This year, my son’s father – Mr. AA himself – is spending the Yuletide season with us, so it’ll be lots of recovery talk and talk about Buddhism and other spiritual paths. Plus lots of good food to eat! I admit, I am looking forward to this!

When people ask me my strategies for navigating holiday parties, I generally say, “Arrive late and leave early.” But of course – you can do this as a drunk, too. I used to do it all the time. I was always on my way somewhere else from some other place and I only had a minute to spare. But the way you lived as a drunk can help you out as a sober person. You just leave out the drinking part.

Lately I’ve been using the acronym “H.A.L.T.” when I discuss dealing with the holidays. Because the holidays – what I term the time between Canadian Thanksgiving (first Monday in October) to New Year’s Eve – and depending on where you live – all the way to Super Bowl Sunday – is a giant stretch of time involving endless office parties, family get-togethers, religious rituals, community celebrations and constant reminders that we are supposed to be having a great time!

H.A.L.T. Just stop. Think. What are you doing and why are you doing it?

Sometimes it’s not even about relapsing. It’s about running ourselves ragged trying to make everything perfect – to make up for all those years when we were perfect fuck-ups.

As you probably already know, “H.A.L.T.” stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired”. Whenever something is going wrong in our lives – it doesn’t even have to be a relapse – usually we are in the grip of one of those things.

I remember when I first got sober in my early thirties. Everyday, around three o’clock, I would get wicked hungry. I would have to get up from my desk and go to the break room and buy a candy bar or get a Pepsi. I started making myself an extra sandwich to get myself through the three o’clock hour. Then one day, I passed a bar with the sign “Happy Hour” in the window and it clicked. I was used to having a drink at 3:00 – I was used to drinking until the dinner hour. I wasn’t hungry – I wanted a drink. Once I understood that, my 3 p.m. munchies largely disappeared.

Anger is one of those issues where I disagree with AA in which I think that there are times that we should be angry and that anger can save our lives. That said, the thing is to use your anger wisely and of course, once you add alcohol into that equation, wisdom usually is not the outcome. Quite honestly, anything I can do sober I can fuck up beautifully when I’m drinking. So it stands to reason that if I’m angry about anything at all, taking a drink is not going to help the situation. Especially if I’m at a holiday party!

Loneliness is a killer but going out drinking seldom helps that. And if you’re with your family and feeling like you’re the outsider, having a drink probably isn’t going to help that situation. The only thing that cures loneliness is learning to love your solitude. And there’s always a meeting somewhere – AA, NA, Smart Recovery, WFS, SOS – find one and find your tribe.

The last letter is “T” and of course, that stands for “Tired”. It is so easy to give up when we are tired. So easy to take that drink that a friend is offering us at a party – so easy to justify it – just one, right? When we are tired, our brain doesn’t make good decisions. I know my brain doesn’t. I’m not sure what’s worse – being hungry or being tired. My brain doesn’t seem to be able to deal with either of them very well. So I always make sure that I am in a safe place when it’s late.

My “Happy Hour” is now spent in my own home – sipping tea and eating my home-baked cookies.

So “H.A.L.T.” – and enjoy the season!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings and Happy Holidays!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Book Review of Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction by Mackenzie Phillips

The last column I wrote was titled “What’s in your toolbox?”, which was posted August, 2018. I missed posting an article last month due to my father’s illness and subsequent death. Believe me, during the stress of the past several months, I have had more than one occasion to open up my toolbox and review all the tools I have in there. In some cases, I polished them off and updated them. Others I just cherished like the old friends that they are. And I added a few new ones because it seems like there’s always another tool to be tried. I once heard that AA meetings are like recovery hardware stores when it comes to finding healing tools to help you become healthy and whole.

Of course, there are other place to find tools and books are one of those places. I have a large collection of recovery books – AA-approved and otherwise. Recently, the editor of PaganPagesOrg, Jennifer Sacasa-Wright, sent me Mackenzie Phillip’s latest book, Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction, published by Atria Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

This is a wonderful little book. I don’t know if you know who Mackenzie Phillips is – she’s five months older than me so we are contemporaries – but knowing who she is really doesn’t matter as far as the contents of this book is concerned. You’ll find out enough about her so that you know that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to using drugs and trying to get sober and eventually achieving that serenity. If you want to know more about her life, there’s an autobiography with all the titillating tidbits that everyone tweets about called High On Arrival: A Memoir

. And of course, there’s always Google. But Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction is just that – eleven short missives on how to get through the worst part of recovery – which, really is all of it.

Each chapter is set up the same way. There is the title of the chapter and a quote from an outside source that defines the chapter. Then she has a story about her own use or maybe someone she knows – someone in her past life or someone she has counseled in her practice. She is very discrete in her disclosures but you always get the message – the strength, the hope, the experience. At the end of each chapter there is a section called “It Works If You Work It”. It’s the “workbook” section of the book – where you get your paper and pen and answer questions about what you just read and apply it to your own recovery. In this way, she makes this slender book into a living act of hope and healing.

Some of the things she wrote about really hit home in a large way. When she wrote about “re-creating history” (page 5) that rang so true, even though I didn’t have a family history of shooting heroin – but I have a family history of alcohol use and abuse – so the idea of “it being so normal” (page 5) definitely rang true. I grew up with the martinis that my parents always drank when Daddy came home from work and the beers that were consumed at every family picnic. The hangovers that were explained as Grampa’s morning “grumpiness”. You had to stay out of his way, ya know? This was normal. And I thought that all mommies drank red wine when they made dinner! So naturally, I re-created this reality when I grew up. Not with red wine but with beer and marijuana. I remember my little son handing me a rolling paper so I could roll a joint first thing in the morning! For my doobie with my coffee! That helpful little guy! That was a wake-up call right there.

Another thing that I could really identify with when she wrote that getting high felt great (page 17). It does feel great – that’s why we do it. There’s no other reason any addict or alcoholic uses – and that’s whatever your drug of choice may be – and I’m including food and gambling and sex and working out with this – getting high feels like a million bucks when you do it. It’s the other part of using that sucks – the hangover, especially – but also the empty bank account and the broken promises and whatever problems are caused by your actions. And even a so-called good addiction – like working out – can have adverse outcomes. There is use – there is abuse – and there is dependence. The question is – where does your relationship with your substance of choice lead you?

A lot of what she writes about is the same stuff you will hear about at any AA/NA meeting or rehab group or therapy session. Mindfulness – trusting yourself and others – acceptance – surrender – forgiveness of others and of yourself – taking responsibility and consequences. On pages 83 and 84, she has a 5-point plan, which I read to be a pre-Twelve-Step plan of action – points 1 and 2 are about thinking about changing your addictive ways and point 3 is preparation for change. Point 4 is action – when you go to AA/NA, check in at rehab, see a therapist, tell all your friends that you’re getting sober. Point 5 is maintenance. She writes, “This is when the real work begins.” (page 84) She doesn’t say that this is when you go through the Twelve Steps of whatever group with which you have chosen to affiliate yourself. But this is what she means: “The possibility of relapse is always real, but this is also the stage in which you arm yourself with a set of skills that will make you less likely to slide back into places that you’re determined to leave behind.” (page 84)

One of the best chapters in the entire book is near the end. It’s about abuse and denial. She writes:

Here’s the hardcore truth: you can smash the pipe, put the plug in the jug, break the tip off the needle, but if you

don’t address the deeper issues, you’re not going to be able to get whole or become a healthy part of the world

around you. Trauma, maltreatment, or abuse, whatever you choose to call it, is a huge, deeper issue that comes

up a lot when we look at addiction. Not talking about trauma and its relationship to substance use would be like

avoiding the larger-than-normal elephant in the room. Childhood trauma and its aftermath is something that

needs to be spoken of and brought out in the open. This is also true of adult trauma, which is often not spoken of

or reported.

(page 123)

I totally agree with this – not only is it true in my own life, I can attest to this, having sat and listened to many other people – at AA and NA meetings, in rehab sessions, and in domestic violence groups.

She talks about trauma in scientific and compassionate ways. How we carry trauma with us for “the rest of our lives”. (page 129) The “before-trauma you” and the “after-trauma you”. (page 129) For those of us who have experienced multiple traumas and different kinds of traumas, this kind of demarcation makes sense – like looking at pictures in a photo album.

Phillips also writes that trauma “takes up residence not only in your mind but also in your body.” (page 129) Trauma victims experience “headaches; pain in your joints; stomach issues; weight issues; feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.” (page 129-30) How many of us have had these symptoms? I know that I took opiates for years for some of these!

The one thing she doesn’t talk about in this book is spirituality. The closest she comes to it is talking about hope. And she writes that “humor and laughter are just other faces of hope” (page 143) and to remember that “hope is the thing with wings”. (page 145) Other than that, she never mentions a word about anything spiritual whatsoever. This, honestly, is one of the book’s strengths. This book has the ability to appeal to anyone struggling with substance abuse regardless of religion or spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. For wiccans and pagans looking to read a book on sobriety that doesn’t cram God-talk down their throats, Mackenzie Phillips offers a really nice alternative to so many of the recovery books that are currently on the shelves of our libraries and bookstores.

All in all, I have to say that this is an outstanding little book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in recovery. In fact, I have a good friend to whom I plan to give it to the next time I see her! I know she will read it and pass it on to another woman in recovery. I hope it goes far!

Until next month – it works if you work it! Brightest Blessings!

References

Phillips, Mackenzie. Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction. NY: Atria Paperbacks, 2017.

Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

What’s in Your Toolbox?

Back when I lived in Lowell, Massachusetts – several years ago – I had Comcast cable and one of the stations I received was called Decades. I guess you can receive it on Spectrum cable too but it’s on some wicked expensive package. It’s a cool station – everyday, they feature the events of that day – whoever’s birthday it is or whatever noteworthy happened on that day – so the programming changes accordingly. Anyway, every day at 8 in the morning, I would watch an old episode of the Dick Cavett show. Back in the 1970’s, Dick Cavett had a talk show that was as cutting-edge as Johnny Carson’s – maybe more so. One day, I saw an interview with Dick Van Dyke. Dick Van Dyke was one of the first major celebrities to come out as a recovering alcoholic – I remember this vividly as a young kid. This was part of the interview. Dick Cavett asked Dick Van Dyke if he was a “member” of AA. I remember Dick Van Dyke answering that “AA was an important tool” in his “toolbox” but “it wasn’t the only tool”. That made a big impression on me.

I found the interview on YouTube and the link is here, It’s REALLY good.


Lots of AA-ers will tell you that all you need is AA and more AA to stay sober. Maybe for some people this is true. But not for me. As happy as I am with my new home group, it doesn’t begin to fulfill all my sober or spiritual needs. I am always looking for other groups to attend – both AA and otherwise – and I am always searching for new sober skills to add to my toolbox.

I created a file called – duh – “Toolbox” – and I filled it with everything I have found to add me on my road to recovery. There’s every version of the twelve steps – or thirteen – or sixteen – that I have discovered – Wiccan versions and Pagan versions and Buddhist versions. There’s a Goddess calendar so everyday I can dedicate the day to the Goddess whose day it is. There’s things I myself have written, like this:

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL

Do not take that first drink. Without the first drink, there is no second drink & there is no third drink & there is no drunk.

With no drunk, there is no running out of money & having to hustle drinks & then getting into questionable sexual situations.

With no drunk, there is no going to questionable places to get other drugs to get higher than the drunk you already have because drinking doesn’t do it anymore & you have to get more wasted. & than spending money that you were supposed to save for other things. & then wanting to die all night long as you go through withdrawals.

With no drunk, there is no hangover. No migraine, no diarrhea, no bleeding hemorrhoids. With no drunk, you wake up in the morning & feel fabulous.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TAKE THAT FIRST DRINK. IT ALL GOES DOWNHILL FROM THERE.

I also have links to ezines like thefix.com and Just For Today Meditation. I also have non-drinking support aids, like “Directives on the Healing Road” from Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart. Sometimes you find sober support in places where you least expect it.

The point is – what’s in your toolbox is up to you. Create a toolbox and fill it with all the tools you can find. And then use those tools! A toolbox filled with tools is no good if it’s never opened and tools are never put to good use!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings! And stay sober – one day at a time! Hugs!

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

References

Peart, Neil. Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Toronto: ECW Press, 2002.

The Fix: Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Recovery News. http://www.thefix.com

Just For Today Meditation. http://jftna.org/jft/

The Dick Cavett Show on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUKV_q-J0Ds

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Recovery Spiral and the Spiral Steps

If you hang around AA for any amount of time, you will no doubt hear that you have to acquire a “Big Book” – the text of Alcoholics Anonymous – and read no other book – unless it’s the “Twelve and Twelve” – the AA book about the Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions – or one of the other “approved” literature that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services puts out. I myself own a Big Book and a Twelve and Twelve. Like everything associated with AA, there’s a lot to love about these books and a lot that honestly pisses me off about them. My own personal copies have color-coded tabs stuck on the edges of the pages so I know where to look for help and I’m not wasting my time with stories that I don’t need. And many times, reading something in the “Big Book” or the “Twelve and Twelve” has kept me sober for one more day.

But I own many other recovery-based books. Not for one minute have I ever believed that “The Big Book” was the only reading material for an alcoholic or an addict any more than I ever believed that the Bible was the only reading material for a Jew or a Christian. There are many places in which you may find wisdom and enlightenment – some are not even within the covers of a book! By all means, read “The Big Book” but read everything else as well!

One of my favorite recovery books is The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash. This book talks about recovery in Buddhist terms. You don’t have to be Buddhist to identify with the issues Ash brings up or his path to recovery. He covers the Twelve Steps and how to deal with them in a non-theistic way. It was an important book in my early recovery and one that I go back to again and again.

Another favorite is Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps by Charlotte David Kasl. (All her books rock). I especially like how she discusses faith development, links patriarchy and addiction, and looks at various recovery groups. She lists various “steps” – the Twelve Steps of AA, the Thirteen Steps of Women for Sobriety, and the Sixteen Steps she herself came up with. She also talks about toxic groups and sexual abuse within groups – it’s an incredible book. It was published in 1992 and it would be great if she came out with an update – things have changed in twenty-five years.

I came across The Spiral Steps quite by accident. I was looking for tarot readings that corresponded to the Twelve Steps and somehow I found a page out of The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing by Cynthia Jane Collins – I think it was on Google Reads or maybe Amazon. I can’t really remember. But I was instantly intrigued. As soon as I could, I bought the book.

It has become one of my very favorite recovery books. It addresses all kinds of problems – not just drugs and alcohol – but overeating, shopping, gaming, sex, working out – whatever it is. The First Step of the Pagan Twelve Steps reads, “We admitted we were harming ourselves and others and our lives had become overwhelming.” (Collins, 3) I don’t know about you but I find this much more appealing that AA’s First Step with its insistence on powerless and unmanageability. And whereas Step Two in AA is a plea to a “Power” greater than any of us peons on earth to “restore” our “sanity”, the Pagan Step Two reads, “Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.” Not sanity – balance.

Here are the complete Pagan Twelve Steps:

  1. We admitted that we were harming ourselves and other and that our lives had become overwhelming.

  2. Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.

  3. Made a decision to move our wills and our lives toward that Divine Presence.

  4. Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.

  5. Admitted to ourselves, to the Divine Presence, and to others the exact nature of our harm.

  6. Were entirely ready to have our harmful patterns replaced by ethical coping skills.

  7. Asked the Divine to transform us, giving us rebirth in our lives.

  8. Made a list of all beings we had harmed, beginning with ourselves and including our world, and became willing to make amends to them all.

  9. Made direct amends to all whenever possible, except when to do so would violate the Rede.

  10. Continued to take personal ethical inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it and corrected it.

  11. Sought through action and meditation to improve our conscious knowledge and contact with the Divine Presence, seeking only to choose in harmony with the greatest good.

  12. Having had spiritual awakenings as results of these steps, we offered this opportunity to others and practiced these principles in our lives.

As you can see, these steps keep the hard-hitting self-development that the original steps had but they remove the Christian flavor that leave a bad taste in our pagan mouths. If you want, you could easily remove “Divine Presence” and put in the name of whatever deity that you personally work with. Certainly – some deities are more conducive to sobriety than others!

The book is filled with stories of people in recovery and people using the steps and the Tarot readings in various ways. Although the Tarot readings are designed to be used with a sponsor, you can do them on your own. The back of the book had Tarot readings and how to use them. There is also a Recovery Spiral Book of Shadows. This has step rituals, a workbook for each of the steps, chants, and spells. There’s also an awesome bibliography. It’s worth checking out some of the books she lists, if you haven’t read them yet and reacquainting yourself with the ones you’ve read years ago. I know that’s what I plan to do.

If you live in a place like I do – where the sober pagans are few and far between – it might be a good idea to invite the few sober pagans that you do know over to your home for a sober evening. Do a ritual from The Recovery Spiral – chant the Pagan Twelve Steps – raise some sober power. Perhaps this could be the start of the one and only Pagan meeting in your area.

But until that happens – I’m continuing to be the solitary sober Dianic Wiccan that I am.

Brightest Blessings!

References

Alcoholics World Services. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001

Alcoholics World Services. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. NY: Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1981

Ash, Mel. The Zen of Recovery. NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1993.

For Amazon information, click image below.

Collins, Cynthia Jane. The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing. NY: Citadel Press, 2004

For Amazon information, click image below.

Kasl, Charlotte Davis. Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. NY: HarperCollins, 1992

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

**

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

#2 Yule

Last time I wrote a personal essay about how I feel about the holidays. I promised an educated, informative article this time.

Oh stop laughing!

I’ll write a little about Yule and a bit about Winter Solstice.

Modern Christmas is a mix of these two ancient celebrations as well as what happened to honor the god Mithras.

The reasons the Winter Holiday was celebrated differ a bit from why we celebrate today, but not completely.

For example. “The Light of the World” , seen by many Christians today as their god is celebrated.

In days past, lengthening days were celebrated. THE light of the world!

I don’t know about you, but when days get shorter in Fall time, I just want to curl up in a ball and hibernate until April. My body does not react well to cold either. Those two things combined make me miserable. For me, the Winter Solstice, celebrating the fact that the amount of daylight is about to increase is a very big deal. It’s still going to get colder for a bit, but I know I am halfway through winter and it is a huge relief to make it that far.

Like ten percent or more Americans, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I really think this is because we just don’t slow down in Winter time like our ancestors did. We insist we will drive the speed limit in blizzard conditions. We will not cut back on extracurricular activities under any circumstances. We refuse to sleep more even if we feel like we need to. And many have zero tolerance for people who do slow down when Winter comes. I jealously watch my cats sleep sixteen hours a day all winter while I trudge through snow, sleet, freezing rain, and what is seemingly eternal darkness. Sometimes, I wake them up on purpose on my way out the door and laugh maniacally even though I know they slip right off to sleep, calling me all forms of obscene names in their feline language.

I drive 10 MPH in heavy snow, sleet, or icy conditions, myself. I sleep as much as I possibly can, and I tell a lot of people in November that I will see them next June!

I look forward to Winter Solstice and say a hearty “Welcome Back Longer Days!”

Before the days of central heating, electric lights, and automobiles in nearly every household, I can only imagine folks in days long gone felt the “winter blues” and “cabin fever” more than we do today.

And when we get upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, flu, and stomach flu as well as the plethora of viral diseases we all invariably seem to catch come wintertime, we have medications our ancestors did not have. We get paid time off from our jobs. We have doctors offices and hospitals. In some villages and hollers ancient Pagans lived in- there may have been only one village healer. And contrary to what a lot of modern Pagans will tell you, mixing an herbal tincture is not quite as powerful as modern pharmaceuticals for some illnesses. If they were, nobody would ever have stopped plucking plants from their own backyards and started taking healing things in pill and syrup form.

The life expectancy was lower, and accidents based on inclement weather caused more deaths in winter than a summertime shower or a soft spring rain would.

Samhain time, people did a lot of prayers and sacrifices to try and ensure everybody got through wintertime alright. By the time Solstice rolls around, winter has been felt strongly for a while, and the lengthening of days is an indication Spring is on the way.

YAY!!!!!!

This is a simple explanation of why those ancient people attached such significance to it all. Something so important takes on religious significance.

How they celebrated and had ritual is an entirely different thing.

How Winter Solstice was first celebrated is unknown to us. We know things people did like light bonfires, and adorn homes with evergreens in later times. Things we still do to this day. To me, this is all relatively new, and I am more interested in what little we do know about structures that still survive although they stopped being used thousands of years ago when I am researching pre Christian Pagan practices. To me, it is these places that hold the most information for us if we want to know about the OLD Old Ways.

Newgrange has a point that lines up with the sunrise and the famous Stonehenge has a point that lines up with sunset of the Solstice. Many of us believe these points were not accidents, but were used as calendars of the seasons. While we keep the dates of our modern Pagan celebrations set on days each year for convenience, if ancient people tracked the seasons based on when the light of the sun or moon struck some stone, it would not be on the exact same day annually. The calenders we use did not even exist at the time the sites were used. But human beings who farmed and had livestock still used the same seasons we use to dictate what is grown and harvested at the time it is. These structures helped track everything to the point they have been considered calendars. They probably were.

Newgrange in particular is in Ireland, near the River Boyne, and was built is approximately 3200 BC. The site was believed to have been a burial site, as human cremains as well as uncremated human remains have been found inside. On the day of the Midwinter sunrise, the light illuminates passageways. It is believed that some of the decorative stones outside of the mound were placed there hundreds of years after burials ceased. The spirals adorning the interior and exterior stones are believed to represent the sun. There were later additions to the site separate from the mound itself, indicating that although it was initially built in Neolithic times, it was used in the Iron Age as well. It has been suggested the mound was used in solar worship to “catch” the sun at Winter Solstice Sunrise, thus ensuring the sun stuck around, and the days would lengthen. This ensured Spring and Summer would indeed happen again.

It never ceases to amaze me that a monument that is older than the Pyramids STILL works. On Winter Solstice, that light still floods the chamber, illuminating the same way it always has.

While it appears the ancient Irish “caught” the light, another group of people our modern celebrations would not happen without are the ancient Heathens, and they celebrated this time of year differently.

To clarify, I separate Heathens, children of Germanic and Scandinavian old gods from Pagans, children of mostly Celtic and pre Celtic British or Greek or Roman gods. Why? Because I have heard so many modern Heathens tell me they feel this is respectful. With the Northmen invading the British Isles, of course there was quite the melting pot of culture, art, and religion. However, the Northerners ancient and modern practices are extremely different than those of the ancient and modern Pagans.

So time to discuss the Heathens. I focus on Yule and one practice in particular. The Wild Hunt. Aside from feasting, sacrifice to the gods, and toasting, it is said the days coincided with the frightening procession of Odin and his hunting party. To witness this was not a good thing. Like to the believers in the British Isles, wary of by being carried off at Samhain by the Sidhe, seeing the Wild Hunt may mean you got carried off. If you did not get carried off, it may portend your death. If it did not portend your death, it may portend a war or other terrible tragedy.

From a practical standpoint, it makes perfect sense they worried about that at this time of year. From January to April was typically time for greater worry of starvation and flu and freezing to death. Sacrifice to the god who might carry you off may convince him to leave you be. Some believed seeing the Wild Hunt was how you were let know you’d be carried off or bad times were to come. Some said you merely heard Odin’s hounds bark. Imagine it being Winter Solstice time and hearing dogs barking from afar and not seeing them and being terrified you’d be claimed.

Fast forward to modern times, and we have a different old man with white beard who will bring rewards if we are good, and punishments if we are bad- Santa Claus. A combination of Christian myth and Odin, he now accepts sacrifices of good deeds done through the year, as opposed to blood offerings expected in days past.

Someplace along the line, old man Yule was separated into the generous Santa/St. Nick and the terrifying Krampus who would whip you. Christianization, of course embraced the the concept of a good god who took care of his followers versus a bad demon king seeking to lead harm the children of god. This pair of godforms replaced the old gods who behaved much more like human beings and both blessed and slaughtered their devotees. Together they processed through the streets in elaborate pageantry after Chrsitianization. For some reason, though, the evil Krampus could bless your house and children as well as whip them for being bad. Perhaps the procession of St, Nick with old Krampus was a modern adaption of the Wild Hunt. It is said Krampus may carry bad kids off, after all.

The fact it is forbidden for children to see Santa Claus get out of his sleigh that flew through the sky whilst leaving gifts is probably left over from the fact nobody WANTED to see or hear Odin and his Wild Hunt. Remember also, Santa had eight reindeer, and Odin’s horse, Slepnir had eight legs.

The parallels to support my belief Odin IS Santa Claus modernized are too numerous to bother you with.

More on celebrating.

Many modern Pagans and Heathens have Sabbat or a gathering or 12 days of celebration that begin on the 21 of December.

For my suggestions, I’ll write a ritual honoring my Father god, Odin, and a separate one in observance of the strengthening sun.

Before you decide to do this ritual, make sure Odin is actually one of your gods. A lot of Pagans and Heathens and groups of them take turns honoring gods they otherwise do not communicate with. Odin, in particular will not recognize people who he does not consider his children. He was a tribal war god. Tribe is family, people who married into the family and were adopted, and honored friends. Contrary to what some may believe, Odin is not the ancestor of every person who has some form or German or Scandinavian blood. He does not care about skin color and DNA is not how he chooses you. Loki was of the Giants, entirely different from the Aesir, and they became brothers despite it. You have to know he is one of your gods. I am sure he would not turn down gifts or sacrifice. But to be a devotee of this particular god means you have to be comfortable with who he was, not who pop culture makes him out to be.

He was the devotional god of an unstoppable legendary group of warriors called Berserkers. Every life they took in battle was a sacrifice for Odin. They were not the only ones who practiced this. He is known as not only the one who gave poetry to humanity, but various forms of his name mean things like “furious”, and ”violent”. He is gathering as many warriors in his hall of the slain for a final battle he knows he will loose. Many warriors wanted to die just so they could fight in that battle. His valkyries pick the souls of the dead off the battlefield and take them to a hall for brawling and drinking where they battle, are killed every day, and are reborn to get up and do it all over again.

This is not a god who is going to be content with a bouquet of flowers every so often. While few of his modern devotees ever march onto a battlefield, he still requires human life. Your life. To be a devotee of his means your life is his. This is not to be entered into lightly and it is not glorious fun.

From personal experience, I have found him to be unsatisfied with paltry offerings as well. A lot of modern folks will sacrifice rabbits to Odin. After I helped with one such rite, the Alfather asked me what I expected him to do with rabbits! He did not like it.

Some claim Pagan gods will take any sacrifice they can get, because they prefer something, anything, to nothing at all. I have not found this to be true. The gods do not need crumbs and scraps. While they understand that times, and culture has drastically changed, they make it entirely clear what their expectations are and if you cannot live up to those expectations, it is wise not to try and substitute. They will not fade away into oblivion if people do not remember them. They do not need us to survive in the way some imagine. If a god horrifies you, that is not the god for you.

Having said that, some of you may think I belong to some weird serial killer cult. Not so. The life I give to Odin is mine. I just understand that he is not a god of compassion that sends positive energy when you are feeling sad and he does not heal every ailment you have. He hung himself from a tree with much pain to find the Runes and he gave his own eye to gain more wisdom. He expects his devotees to do the same.

While feeding with blood like in times past in great temples is not going to happen, many are not aware of how much Odin loves wine. As a matter of fact, some say that is all he “eats”. If you know your history, you know the “wine” used in many of the places Odin was honored was mead. A lot of mead is very expensive, and unlike coffee or tea, it takes a lot of time, money, and space to brew your own. Oliver is a popular brand that has a modern less expensive mead you can use in ritual although I have found Odin to like a good full bodied red wine like Malbec or Merlot also.

If this has not convinced you to head for the hills or that I am just as mean as anything, read on. But pay very very close attention to what I say because this ritual is very very difficult.

Because it is so simple.

Most people want more pageantry for a high day. A lot of people will want long ritual to Odin and reading of Eddas including separate parts for all participants so everybody is included.

If that works for your group, I say do it. But you don’t have to if you prefer something simpler.

In the old days, priests slaughtered animals, and blessed the temple walls, images of gods, and the people with the blood. The meat was then cooked and there was feasting for days, three or even twelve days. There was merriment, eating, and lots of drinking. Toasts were made to the hosts, rulers, the gods, and the people. Everybody brought something. Everybody had a good time.

Butchering meat and blood ritual is practically extinct except in some individual groups. Most people reading this article are not going to sacrifice a live pig or a cow and are not going to sprinkle blood on other people.

That leaves the food, drink, and, fellowship.

Simply said, have a potluck. Have everybody bring something delicious.

Have mead and or red wine and or beer and iced tea and whatnot.

Light bonfires if you can, and light candles if you cannot.

Before the feast begins, have everybody circle round together and have each person have their own drink.

Have the host or officiant thank everybody for coming, and in their own words toast the attendees. One by one, attendees can toast each other and the host.

That is round one.

Round two, everybody toasts the ancestors and people who they love and could not attend.

Round three, everybody refills their cups if needs be and raises their glasses all together and with a mighty shout all together cry “ODIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and drink to the bottom of their cups.

A decided amount of drink, wine or mead will then be poured out into the ground for Odin.

Then feast and be merry. I have found Odin to enjoy seeing his children enjoy time with one another. The spirit of this time of year is the Allfather for me, and he expresses his love for us through us loving one another. We warm each others hearts when the weather is frigid. We are light for one another when it is dark. In this way, we are Odin to one another, and we are the spirit of the high day. In this way he lives through us.

That’s it. I find the Allfather will make the sun come back regardless of what humanity observes in liturgy and I focus more on celebration and spending time with loved ones than literary readings or long rituals.

If you are not a child of Odin, and you prefer Winter Solstice, you can simply light a fire and face the sun. Getting outside even if it is cold is crucial. To feel the sun upon your face and draw it is as some would draw in the moon when it is full and to know in your heart the days will get longer is the number one observance I always had for this. If you are like me, you like to pour wine, beer, or mead into the ground. The sun will come to the earth and soak all that good stuff up. If you want to, say a few words welcoming the sun back, but you don’t have to. This can be done alone or with a group and everybody can take turns saying something they see fit and pouring their own libation into the earth, feeding the sun to give it strength. Potluck and have fun.

Realistically, unless you live with everybody, some friends and family will not have a chance to visit often with you until Spring time. Winter prevents a lot of folks from getting out as much although many try to battle the weather and defy it. Before more hard heavy cold and deeper snows of January and February buries you, this is a great time for gathering with loved ones.

Glad Yule or Blessed Solstice.

May your gods smile upon you and may you not freeze your buns off!

Blessed Be!

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone is running themselves ragged trying to find the “perfect” gift for each person on their list. This list is to, hopefully, help you out finding that gift for the Witches and Pagans in your life.

1. Shortbread Molds for the baker in your life that honors the Goddess:

http://goddesstimeline.com/product/cakes-for-the-queen-of-heaven/

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While you are at the website, check out their Goddess 3-D statues and the Goddess Timeline posters, which are stunning.

 

2. 2017 Datebooks

Most of us are familiar with Llewellyn’s annual treasury of datebooks – The Witches’ Datebook and Calendar, The Spell-A-Day Almanac, the Sabbats Almanac and The Witches’ Companion. There is also the MoonDiary

http://moondiary.com.au/northernhemisphere/ They also carry Moon

Charts, cards, bookmarks and DVDs.

If you love beautiful artwork, check out the “Women of Myth & Magic”

datebook and calendar (available on Amazon).

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3. Tools for divination & Healing

While some may wish to choose their own divination tools, there are also

those that like to have many different ones from which to choose. There

are Tarot Decks, Rune Sets, Pendulums, Crystal Balls. You can also look

at crystals and herbs for healing and other intentions. While most of

these can be found on the larger websites, like Amazon, I would suggest

looking into smaller shops local to your home, or looking into Etsy, which

has many pagan-run shoppes. Some of my favorite Etsy shoppes are:

Circle Magica

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/CircleMagica?ref=pr_faveshops

Motherhouse of the Goddess

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/MHGoddessShop?ref=pr_faveshops

Brigid’s Grove

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/BrigidsGrove?ref=pr_faveshops

Spiral Sun herbals

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/SpiralSunherbals?ref=l2-shopheader-name

I tend to buy my crystals in person, however, this is one of my favorites:

http://www.pelhamgrayson.com

4. Yoga & Meditation

Meditative Mandala Stones

mandalastones1

http://paganpages.org/content/2016/12/book-review-meditative-mandala-stones-by-maria-mercedes-trujillo-arango/

Please see my review this issue of Pagan Pages.  

Spirit Voyage Music – This is mostly Kundalini based, but they have wonderful books, music and clothes. http://www.spiritvoyage.com

Hugger Mugger – Clothes, mats, bolsters, clothes – 

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http://www.huggermugger.com

5. Miscellany

Cafe Press – If you have not gone to this website, you absolutely must.

If you are looking for it, they have it. Cups, T-shirts, cards, bumperstickers,

Tote bags, plaques. This link should take you directly to the “Gifts for

Witches” section –

http://www.cafepress.com/+witches+gifts

Some online catalogues

Pyramid Collection – Clothes, jewelry – https://www.pyramidcollection.com

Sacred Source – Beautiful collection of Pagan Statues, some jewelry, wall hangings –

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(Pictured: Cerridwen)

http://www.sacredsource.com 

Raven & Crone – Ritual Supplies, Crystals

ravenandcrone-logo

https://www.ravenandcrone.com

The Magickal Cat – Ritual Supplies, Music, Candles – Very comprehensive inventory –

cat-writing-in-bos-image-small

http://www.themagickalcat.com

Llewellyn’s – While they carry Tarot, CDs and the like, they are most

known for their large array of books in almost all subjects Pagan.

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https://www.llewellyn.com Check out their Holiday Guide!

Enchantments – The oldest occult store in New York City

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http://enchantmentsincnyc.com

wheel-chime-candles-1140x640

Never underestimate the joy of candles. Witches and Pagans, I have found, never have enough candles, so feel free to go and stock up on candles in different colors for individual workings that are color specific. 

cauldron

If you wish to go with a tried and true cliche’, there is always a cast iron cauldron. This would be a beautiful gift. There are plenty to be found online. Look at them carefully for quality; they come in a range of sizes and price.

There are many other things out there for you to choose from. Only you know the Witch or Pagan in your life well enough to find them that “perfect” gift. My hope is that this list will get you started on your Yule search!

Wishing you a blessed Yule and Holiday Season!

)O(

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