PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
Around the winter solstice is the time of year when many people get together, families and friends, to celebrate the holidays. If we are fortunate, we have some time off to be together, all together in one place – we may not have such an opportunity until the next solstice season rolls around. It can be a wonderful time of loving hugs, good conversation and deep, belly filled laughs. It can also be a trying time, when the bonds of friendship or family can become tested as we are all thrown together, our usual routines and habits left behind and we are faced with situations that are perhaps out of the norm.
My home is usually very quiet, filled with deep silence and stillness. In that silence I find my personal sanctuary, where peace is around every corner. I’m not a big fan of crowds or noise. However, at this time of year, I leave behind my little sanctuary and venture out into the world of lights and noise, family and friends when I’d really rather be sitting on my meditation cushion in the dark, with a candle and some incense.
It’s quite a shift to deal with. There is constant noise around me, different noise to that of my own home. It’s the noise of other people, which I am not accustomed to. Loud televisions, conversations, arguments, laughter – it’s a bit of an assault on my senses. Dealing with other people’s behaviour when there is no opportunity to “escape”. I have to confront everything that upsets me head on, or lose my temper, say something in anger as my “sanctuary” is thrown out the window.
Or is it? Yes, it’s difficult. Even as I type this blog, there are interruptions by people walking in and out of the room, asking me what I’m doing and other various questions. Nemetona, my goddess of sanctuary, has taught me that she is ever within me even as she is without – I take her with me wherever I go, and where I go she is always there.
When I was about nine, my grandfather took a welding torch and created for my church a tall stand on which to set the Advent wreath in the sanctuary. We had magnificent holly bushes in our yard, so my mother and I each year cut piles of dark, prickly leaves and red berries, then built the wreath ourselves. None of my friends seemed to have ever heard of Advent, so I thought it was just for Lutherans. The sermon each of the four weeks before Christmas kept our minds trained on the spiritual significance of the season, and a paper Advent calendar at home with little doors to open each day made me think maybe I should pay attention to it all.
Nowadays I ponder the iconic maternal images of Mary and Isis, seasonally superimposed one on the other. Each of them experienced difficult transitions to motherhood. Each struggled to hide her son away from those who would snuff out his life. Each had enough protective magic to earn them the titles Queen of Heaven and Mother of God....
Almost everyone I know has at some time had a sunburn. Nowadays I am ridiculously careful with sunscreen every day having had a skin cancer scare a number of years ago. Before then, I often didn't realize that I had had too much Sun until a day later when my skin was inflamed and sensitive. I can recall times when just a fingertip running across my arm felt like someone dragging a rusty nail across my skin. There have been times when the sunburn was bad enough that even a cool soothing balm felt like an assault upon my skin. There was also, in those extreme cases, a sense of malaise as well. Nature often repeats certain patterns, and human nature perhaps even more often. I have often observed that what we experience in our physical bodies is also similar to what we experience in our souls, our psyches, and our spirits. I think that we can get a soulburn, and it is very much like a sunburn. By the way, a soulburn is not the same thing as burnout which is what happens when we do too much and burn the candle and both ends and the middle....
In this Fiery Tuesday installment, we feature many communities: the Pagan response to Ferguson, Mo; creation of a peaceful community in the heart of Oakland, Ca; tiny houses for the homeless in Portland, Or; the death-with-dignity discussion in Britain, and a new generation of Native American female activists.
The Wild Hunt's Crystal Blanton interviews many Pagan activists on the subject of the situation in Ferguson and its implications....
There has been so much talk lately of peace. The world is not an easy place right now, and I see difficulties all around, from the level of geographical turmoil to communities in chaos, to quieter, more internal distress. And I see friends, well-intentioned and hard-working people, left bereft of direction, unsure of what to do in the face of it all.
We are all part of something. Family, tribe, online and in person, we have those we love and who love us in turn. We try to reach out, to help where we can, but it can be very difficult, as the connections become loose. Understanding can be lost as beliefs differ, opinions clash, cultures seem confusing. There is never just one side to a story.
I often say that I do my best, because that's all I (or any of us) can do. And I mean it, even if some days, my best doesn't seem like very much at all! But as a Druid and a Pagan, I feel the connection with those around - both human and non-human. My hilltop home, but also the pull of the lands of my childhood (varied though they were) and welcoming places that I've visited, both across the UK and overseas. So many lives, so many stories. How many do we touch, as we walk our paths? What effect do we have on the tides of this world?