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A Simple Path: Journey of a Hedgewitch

hedge


*The Hedgewitch lives in the space between the Village and the Forest. Between the mundane and the magical. S/He lives with a foot in both worlds.
This column is dedicated to the Hedgewitches of the planet earth.

Holidays in the Hedge; What is the reason for the season, again???
I, personally, will use any occasion to celebrate. And although I wasn’t raised a pagan, discovering the 8 holy days or sabbats in the sacred Wheel of the Year delighted me! It never occurred to me, for one moment, not to celebrate the Christmas traditions of my youth in Christianity, as well. The blending of my old and new faith merely gave me a whole raft of new holidays to celebrate and as they come roughly 6 weeks apart, there seemed always to be something to celebrate.
As a spiritual kleptomaniac, one who liberally “borrows” from myraid traditions, inclusively rather than exclusively, I never eliminate anything entirely. I simply modify it for my personal use or set it aside for further reflection another time.
However, in modern society, there has been such unrest regarding the celebration of Christmas vs. Yule that I feel led to address the dilemma in this month’s column.
I am aware of the fundamental Christian campaign to remind the world of their assertion that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. It used to sort of crack me up, the unmitigated gall of folks to use a completely inaccurate slogan to ‘guilt’ people into ‘remembering’ facts that simply aren’t true.
Then their reign of evangelism started to rain on my personal parade and I was forced to take things a bit more seriously.
Please understand I am not in the recruiting business. I am just as happy if the number of pagans remains the same in the world for the next 1000 years. If there are to be more, then it is up to the Universe to lead them to become so. It is not my job to make fresh pagans daily. I am delighted to share, instruct and educate those who have made their own decision to come to the Path, and to support their efforts, however, I do not feel responsible to wrest souls from other religions to increase the numbers in my own.
That said, I have the hardest time when I, or others of my shared faith construct, are being attacked for things like “ruining Christmas” because of celebrating our own way. I am not attempting to convince anyone that my way is the best and/or only way. I merely feel compelled to be accurate, and to stand up for my fellowes when they are wrongly accused (anybody feeling a recurring theme of wrongly accused pagans?).
2 years ago I got into a debate with a fundy Christian who was really upset that we pagans had stolen their holiday traditions and were attempting to taint them with our “heathen ways“. I was forced to illustrate that, in fact, it was the Christians who had “stolen” the traditions of Yule and made them their own.
Frankly, I don’t have a problem with their “borrowing”. I do the same thing, as I mentioned above (though, not for the purpose of controlling the masses, of course).
However, this man had no idea, whatever, his most treasured holiday moments and activities had come from pagan origins. He was horrified, aghast, and worst, furious at my impudence to even suggest such a thing.
Now, there were other folks involved in this debate, as it was an open forum, on an online newspaper site. Many, many people, pagan and Christian alike attempted to show this angry man his ideas were flawed, and these traditions existed hundred, even thousands, of years before Christ was even born.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the man was not swayed by logic, history or verifiable fact. I didn’t expect him to be, but I couldn’t help myself but try to pry his mind open with the truth (I am an Aquarius…it cannot be helped…).
In the end, it was the other folks on the forum who ended up finishing the debate with him, providing many documentations for the very ideas I had purported. They chastised him, not only for his narrow-mindedness and open hostility, but also for not exactly being a beacon of Christian Light in what he referred to as the Season of Jesus. Is that really how Jesus might have acted???
The whole thing left me feeling tired, frustrated and a bit sad.
However, as is my way, I researched deeper into the origins of so many of our favorite holiday traditions. In every case, I found documentation for these ritual acts (the tree; mistletoe, holly and evergreen decorations; exchanging cards; donating food and money to the less fortunate; singing carols) in the historic and anthropological data of civilizations who celebrated the return/rebirth  of the Sun centuries before the birth of Christ, which, by the way, has been determined to have occurred in the Spring, not in December, at all.
Rather than feeling more polarized by the debate, I felt as though we had much more in common than this man wished to note.
There can be a feeling of friction this time of year, for many of us. Particularly those in mixed-spiritual households. Many traditions live side by side, coming from many origins in our lives. No two people (save for siblings, of course) seem to come from the same exact sort of household, nor do their families celebrate holidays the exact same way. When folks marry or join homes in any way, they are entering into an agreement to find a way to blend their holiday traditions or to find ways to separately observe them in their own time-honored way.
The same can be said for pagans and our sabbat celebrations. The lucky thing for us is, our Yule traditions are virtually the same as everyone else’s Christmas. I have openly celebrated Yule for the past 6 years and no one I didn’t tell, specifically, even knew my decorations weren’t for Christmas. I am German (Saxon) and Irish (Celtic) so my family traditions included a tree, candles, evergreen décor, gift exchange, carols, a Yule log and numerous other “normal” Christmas activities.
I do keep the solstice night as sacred for my own personal pagan ritual relating to the season, but this does not keep me from hanging stockings and opening presents on the morning of the 25th. For me, there is no conflict of interest.
I love Winter and the season of light. I would never consider modifying my holiday activities because it wasn’t “pagan enough” or it was “too Christian”.
I wait all year to enjoy these activities, and won’t allow controversy to muddy my holiday cheer.
This is the time of year we come together to celebrate the return of light to the world, regardless of what you choose to call it.
I sincerely hope that all of you embrace whatever traditions give you hope and life during this festive time. Try not to allow preconceived notions of what is Pagan and what is Christian to determine how you celebrate. Or to allow differences in dogma to divide loving households with the heat of debate.
We can be the change we want to see in the world (Gandhi) by being tolerant and open of the beliefs and traditions of others, even if they cannot return the favor. We can apply peace and harmony to a prickly situation by sheer force of will. We can manifest the love and light we want so desperately to see in the world around us, just by appreciating others regardless of our differences.
In this, the Season of Miracles, I pray peace and harmony would come to live in each of your homes, and that abundance would fill your pantries and bank accounts to overflowing.
Happy Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Rocking Solstice and A Blessed New Year to all!
Yay Winter!!!