Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Farewell Yule



January is a series of farewells.

Yule: the year's greatest feasting. Through the dark nights of December, we progressively prepare for and welcome its coming. Throughout the Thirteen Nights, we feast our beloved guest. Through the dark days of January, we bid our repeated farewells.

(In this we are like the Old Pagans, the Kalasha of Pakistan, who alone of all the peoples of the Indo-Euorpean diaspora have held to their traditional religion continuously since antiquity.)

We bid a first farewell at Thirteenth Night, thirteen days after the Solstice, as the Merry Monarch of Misrule presides over the feast's last feast.

We bid another farewell on King Day, when the Yule greens come down.

(This is a local household tradition that started years ago because my then-housemate had the day off work and I myself off school. Taking Yule down is just as much work as putting it up. Interestingly, though, it's not a mere marriage of convenience: the realia of MLK's life, death, and legacy interlaces surprisingly well with end-of-Yule lore as well.)

We bid yet another farewell on Twenty-Sixth Night, 2 x 13.

We bid a final farewell to Yule on Thirty-Ninth Night, 3 x 13. Technically, this year that would be Thursday, January 29, but in practice (in this house at least), we observe it on the last Tuesday in January, in sororal solidarity with Europe's greatest fire festival, Shetland's Up Helly Aa (lit. “Up Holiday All”: i.e. “the holiday's completely over”).


Old Yuletide is past:

Thirteenth Night is the last.


So begins the last verse of the most famous of the many carols for Yulesend. Why “Old Yule,” you ask?

Not hard: Yule, the solar New Year, is the microcosm of the solar year. Its Thirteen Days constitute a Year-in-Little, one day for each moon. Like the Sun, like the Year, Yule comes in as a Babe and goes out an Old Man.

Some years back, though, I overheard a friend singing a variant:


Bold Yuletide is past:

Thirteenth Night is the last.


“Bold Yuletide.” I like that. It echoes, of course, the name of Bold Slasher, one of the characters of the traditional death-and-rebirth Yuletide Mummer's Play.

It's more than that, though. There's something audacious, something in-your-face about Yule: its affirmation of light in a time of dark, its affirmation of plenty in a time of dearth.

“Bold Yuletide is past: Thirteenth Night is the last,” I sing, packing away the little Great Mother on her birthing-stool, the amber Sun egg, and the circle of animals that surround them beneath the Tree.

The greens, the lights, the ornaments: all taken down, all packed away, until we're left with nothing but the pure, living Flame.

Then is Yuletide well and truly over.

Welcome Imbolc.



You can read more about the Kalasha and their extended two-month Yule in:


Augusto S. Cacopardo (2016) Pagan Christmas: Winter Feasts of the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush. Gingko Library.




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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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