Come, the darkest night
Come, new light at dawn...
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Come, the darkest night
Come, new light at dawn...
The chart cast for the moment of the Winter Solstice — when the Sun enters Capricorn — is predictive for the three months ahead, and when the chart is cast for the capital of a country, it is predictive for that entire country. As we spiral in towards the next solsticial shift — from dark to light here in the northern hemisphere, and from light to dark in the southern — we are caught up in planetary energies that demand change, and change often demands the destruction of the old before the new is birthed. It is the light within us — our inner Sun — that gives us the vision, energy, courage and strength to build anew in a world in which hi-tech warfare, critical levels of environmental pollution, catastrophic climate change and resource depletion promise a future very different from our present. The challenges are clear, and the Solstice chart offers us insight into the personal and spiritual strategies we can use to meet these challenges with grace, compassion, and courage.
Winter Solstice is a perfect excuse to wind down for the year. It is happily emphasized since I am on Winter Break for school– hibernating more and going out less. For the last seven years and counting, I have held some sort of Winter Solstice gathering for friends and sometimes family. I have hosted sit-down traditional dinners and the more informal drinks and appetizers only fiesta. We have mulled spiced-wine together, played an old parlor game entitled, "The Minister's Cat," and lit candles. One of my favorite theme ideas was putting a spotlight on the sun: I served spicy Indian food for snacks and the soundtrack featured all songs mentioning the sun. There are a seemingly endless supply of these to choose from.
This year, I am taking some advice from an Indianapolis food blogger, featured in the current issue of Midwest Living. Her article, "Holiday Party Tips From Annie Marshall: Eat Drink and Be Merry," is a great approach to a more relaxed get-together. From hanging treats on an "edible cookie tree," to her insistence on serving a signature drink for the event that you can make a nice big batch of in advance, Marshall knows her stuff. Here is her recipe for Cranberry Margaritas:...
I love this time of year...though I could do without the single to negative digit temperatures. A lot of my traditions haven't changed from what I did as a child in a Roman Catholic household but I do have some additions. Below, in random order, I list some of my holiday traditions.
As I stand outside, feet firmly planted on the grass I can feel the steady pulse of the Earth beneath me. Around me, my garden has come to life in an explosion of green, just as the insect population has rapidly grown. I sink my awareness deeper into my surroundings and feel the rapidly approaching Summer Solstice hanging in the air “Mom! Damien won’t leave the Christmas tree alone!” And with that, I am jerked back to reality and motherly duties, and to a world with a cultural clash in celebrations.
I am a Pagan, so on 21 December I’ll celebrate the Summer Solstice. But it’s hard to get into that summer feeling when, from October and the start of summer, all commercial enterprises have been pushing consumers into Christmas. Malls are decked with frosted garlands of plastic greenery, and elves practically melt in the 30˚ plus (86˚F and higher to those over the Atlantic) heat as they usher children to an equally sweaty Santa. And let’s not forget the winter foods traditional to Christmas that leave you feeling more like a beached whale than a streamlined dolphin as you swim in the pool.
Another aspect of this cultural clash is that, unlike Northern Hemisphere Pagans, our Sabbats in the South are at odds with the commercial calendar- Samhain and Yule décor in summer and Ostara décor in autumn. Not only does it hamper the convenience of the Sabbat, but I find it makes it harder to really get into the feel of the Sabbat when everyone else is celebrating its seasonal opposite.
There is a deeper side to it too. At Yule, Samhain and Ostara, Northern Pagans, especially those in America, have the opportunity to let the religious family divides slide, meaning that families can come together to celebrate the holiday in a more secular way. In South Africa, Yule is in June- everyone is either in school or working, and as the majority population is Christian, have no interest celebrating Christmas in June. And as it is more likely that a few, if even that, family members may be Pagan, it means that Yule doesn’t hold that same family-time feeling as it does in the North.
So what’s a South African Pagan to do? Do as the first settlers to her shores and adapt! With leaving my children to decide on their own religion, and naturally being like any child who will never say no to a chance for presents, we have Christmas in our home, but with a twist. We have a small Christmas tree decorated in shades of pink and purple, and as soon as they are made, some flower decorations too. And while I will make offerings on the astronomical event of the Summer Solstice, I’ll leave the true celebration of Summer to Christmas day. So instead of a heavy wintery feast indoors come Christmas day, we’ll have a light lunch of light meats and seasonal salads and fruits by the pool. And we’ll make the most of both holidays by spending the day together as a family, enjoying the height of summer.