The return of the Sun – winter fun for winter children

It’s the time of year when we are fast looking toward the days shortening and the awaiting the Winter Solstice. Cold noses and toes thaw out inside to the tune of yarn scarves sluicing off melting snows onto tile floors. Chubby little hands reach for cookies and carry sugar crumbs all throughout the house.

As the days grow darker, it is a great time to start the tale of the Sun King. There are many versions, but the one found on the Completely Pagan Facebook page is especially adorable. It is a precious moment between a grandfather and his grandchildren.

In a small voice, the child said “Grandfather can you tell me of the story of the first Yule? I always liked that one the best.”

With a clearing of his throat and another puff on his pipe, the Grandfather started to spin the tale of the first Yule.

Telling stories is thirst work, you know. A lovely activity that you and the children can take part in to celebrate the sunshine days that will come after Solstice would be to make Winter Solstice Tea. Here an easy peasey recipe by Charming Pixie Flora, aka Flora Sage.

She gives her recipe as

Winter Solstice Tea (aka Russian tea)

1 jar of Tang (or 566 g sweetened orange drink mix)
2/3 cup Instant tea (unsweetened)
1 package Lemonade mix (unsweetened)
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Cloves

Mix and store in a glass jar.

Use 2 teapoons (sic) of mixture in a mug with hot water.

However, I really like to add a burst of vitamin C and get that citric acid into the body during this time of year. So I suggest adding some sliced fruits to the mix. Lemons, limes, grapefruits, and even tangelos make fun additions, and serve as reminders of the Wheel of the Year.

Image by Scott Bauer

If you have a mind to, industrious folks can reserve a few of the fruits for peeling. They can be eaten with the tea, while the peels can be dehydrated for use. These can them be used in potpourri blends, incenses, or in other creative ways. Good times.

Solstice lights and Philosopher’s stones – winter fun for winter children

The darkness continues to lengthen as the Winter deepens. We turn the Wheel and await the solstice. But while we do, there is a fun activity that we can do with our lovely Littles that allows them to bring a bit of light to the nights.

 

Solstice Lights

Did you ever really think about how much fun it can be to go rummaging down the aisles of your local dollar store and contemplate all the fun ideas you could explore with mason style jars?

They sit there, waiting for someone to take them home. Glass testimony to the ingenuity and practicality of our ancestors. Utterly versatile, yet common enough to not even be thought about until needed.

This one is pretty simple. You and your helper will choose three or four mason jars with wide mouths. To these, you will add small colorful votive candles. A drop of white clue on the bottom will secure them into place inside the jars.

You can place these along the porch mantle in your home, or on the walkway. For those who cannot use either option due to living circumstance, like apartments, then it is a lovely display to have them clustered together on the kitchen table. The lights are cozy and inviting. Just the thing to keep away the Cailleach, while you tell her story.

Adding a ribbon to the outside of the jar with a bow adds a homey touch. You could also color the outsides with glass paint. Honestly, you can use the fancy schmancy jelly jars, too. And, of course……GLITTER!!!!

Philosopher’s Stones

Gift giving is going on at this time of year and what better gift could there be than that of transformation? This craft is really fun and makes a great gift. Best of all, it is easy and very sparkly.

Now, time to head to the dollar store again. Buy a bag of large clear flat stones. Now buy some nail polish. Really pretty nail polish. Bold, of glittery, or hologram, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it pops. Get a few.

To do this activity, you will need to sit down and give some thought to the qualities or virtues that you would like to see people develop over the year. Once you have it down, make a list and decide a color for each of them. You can do as few or as many as you wish.

You are going to paint the bottoms of the glass stones with the polishes and seal with the top coat. This will give them an amazing look. Now you can keep them in a mason jar (yep, we are still using those). When guests come by for the solstice, or just dinner during this season, you can invite them to pull a stone from the jar. They can check your chart to see what quality they have drawn for the year. It is a cute and inexpensive keepsake.

Here is a quick video to show you how.

I hope you are enjoying this series. Give us some feedback below. We would love to share your ideas with everyone who reads our columns.

 

 

Write the Oak King, this year, and he will write you back

One thing that is a special memory for many of the children of the Western cultures is that of writing a symbolic character of the Winter Solstice, usually a form of Saint Nicholas. For Pagan children who celebrate the Winter Solstice with the stories of the Oak and Holly Kings, this Tradition may, or may not, be included in their festivities. But for those who do want to give their families the experience of writing a letter to a personification of the winter spirit, the Solstice Dispatch Service is ready to serve.
Julbocken 1912 - John Bauer
Julbocken 1912 – John Bauer
People from around the world wrote letters to the Postal Elves.  You could write both, or even the Yule Elves. The good folks behind the project took the time to actually put in the work to write those people back with physical letters. They even answered the ones that arrived after the Solstice.
This service is open to all ages: babies, kids, young adults, experienced adults, elders, etc. If you need to be reminded about the magic of this season, write to the Oak King and receive a letter back.
The Solstice Dispatch Service networks with many deities, so if you would rather address your mail to other figures who are more meaningful to you (last year, we received letters addressed to Odin!), feel free to do so. Our Postal Elves will ensure that your letters get to the right place.
Letters can be sent to:
c/o The Oak King
5890 Monkland, Suite 16-0612
Montreal, Qc
Canada H4A 1E9
The service if free to all. Age is not a barrier, they answer every age. Just be sure to include your return address and the name of the person wanting the reply.
Image: Tommy Tong
Image: Tommy Tong
What a great thing to do for the Solstice.  Also, what a wonderful way to get the children off the electronics and at the other end of a pen. Now, time to go get some stamps.

The Warmth of Yuletide Traditions

As a child, the winter season was one of excitement and delight, not for the religious connotation, but the giving aspect of this time of the year. While we did attend midnight mass, my Christian upbringing was never made the spotlight of my memories. My memories held dear the decorating, the gift giving, and spending time with family. Moving out on my own sparked the determination to continue the non-religious traditions of the season and, more-so, to ensure that I made new traditions of my chosen Pagan faith.

While my husband and I decorated our tiny Yule Tree and fabricated a topper with what supplies we could find, our solid Solstice traditions didn’t come into play until we had our daughter. Admittedly, we did not know exactly what traditions we wanted to keep, change, or make. We just knew that this time of year is ripe for giving and family. We needed to find traditions that would make us feel those and more.

When we finally got a normal sized tree, we began the continued tradition of filling the branches with all kinds of decorations. From the cinnamon stick hand-made stars to the Hallmark Tweety Bird  ornaments, our initially bare tree became something to be proud of. Then we added a Yule Log into the mix. This Birch log, with ribbon and pine cone decorations, lit a candle each week leading up to the Winter solstice. With our stocking hung up, it was starting to feel like the childhood nostalgia of the season that I remembered. We couldn’t stop there. We had some of the traditional fare, but we needed something specific to Yule. Something magical.

 

Handmade suns and countdown socks for Yule!
Handmade suns and countdown socks for Yule!

 

Each year, we create a sun, reminding each other of the longest night and of the sun that will grow stronger and stronger. We started small, with a paper plate and some paint, then we moved to cutting paper, and even further with creating a sun with string lights. Moving through ornaments and cookies, each year we find a new way to illustrate the sun coming back into our lives.

Now all we needed was some excitement building. It’s easy to get excited for Christmas with how saturated stores and media are, but we wanted our daughter to have excitement around Yule. Since we only give a few gifts, our focus for Yule had always been celebrating the season. We created a new tradition of counting down to Yule.

We purchased rainbow baby socks in bulk and used puffy fabric paint to write out numbers 1-22. Then we hung them up and fill with candy, small toys, or seasonal lip gloss. Something small to open each day in December, that keeps the warm feeling of the season going throughout the cold month. After all the socks are turned over, on the evening before the Solstice, we set out treats for the Clauses and reindeer.

This is all the buildup and preparation for our Solstice celebration. When the day actually arrives, we were ready to party! We start the morning with a gift left from Mr. & Mrs. Clause.

It’s a well-known fact that the Clauses make a special trip for those who celebrate Yule.

After cleaning up the oats inevitably spilled by the reindeer, we continue with our day, waiting patiently for the evening Yule dinner. As early as our daughter can convince us, we open each other’s gifts thoughtfully chosen for everyone to enjoy. We eat our dinner with sparkling juice in special glass cups for the occasion and end the evening with a story on what will happen that long evening. One story we have read is “A Visit to Mother Winter” by Starhawk (you can find a copy for yourself here). Together, we enjoy the company of those closest to us and retire to bed filled with love and wonder what the next Winter Solstice will bring.

I feel lucky to have found traditions that work so well for my family, whether they are continued traditions of my youth or newly created traditions. As we have family that celebrates Christmas and Hannukah, we are able to experience the varied traditions of others. Sometimes creating traditions revolve around religion, the winter season in general, or just to stick by those you love. Either way, family traditions during this time of the year are special and individual to each family. As long as you feel that warmth of the hearth, you’ve found the perfect tradition for you and yours.

The MoonFire Workings – Devotion, Manifestation, Promulgation and Education

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

“They shall gather my children into their fold: they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.” Liber Legis 1:15

During 2013, my magnificent partner in crime, love and magick and I wrote and performed a series of twelve public rituals in a de-sanctified little gothic country church in the middle of nowhere near Kalamazoo, Michigan. Each ritual was loosely based on the prevailing zodiac sign and ruling god. We also performed some of them at other gatherings in the southwest Michigan area. These were the MoonFire Workings and this is their story.

Used with permission
Paul and Pat at ConVocation 2016

The story begins long ago during the heyday of the east coast Wiccan movement. My lovely partner, Pat, started an originally eclectic coven that was first adopted by trainers from Athanor, a Celtic Shamanic Order and then began initiations through an Alexandrian HPS, from the “Du Bandia Grasail” (DBG) tradition, whose initiations came directly from Alex Sanders and is the first documented Alexandrian Coven in the USA.  Ironically, both lines of trainers traced their origins back to this same origin.  Pat later also joined “The Order of Ganymede (OG)  an Alexandrian Chhonioi organization also originating from the same lineage.  The order is very Hellenistic in nature harboring a deep appreciation of Ceremonial Magick with the Cabalistic teachings of Dion Fortune having a large influence.  Pat has always had a deep regard for Crowley and Thelema, and as many know, ceremonial Magick and Thelema is a major component of the foundation of Gardner’s system of Wicca.

When I met Pat, I started spending substantial time in southwest Michigan where she lives and which is now both our home. She would take me to the various local gatherings. These were much simpler and rustic than the quality of ritual found on the east coast, and of course in ritual groups like the OTO. Therefore, Pat and I decided to write and perform a ritual for a local Yule gathering that would combine elements of both Ceremonial Magick and Traditional Wicca, to show what dramatic ritual could be when “rightly performed with joy and beauty”.  We wrote a Yule 2012 ritual celebrating the sun moving into Capricorn, using a goodly quantity of Pan imagery and texts. The ritual included the Star Ruby, a traditional Wiccan circle opening, the Hymn to Pan, reading of Liber A’ash and more.

The yule ritual had quite the effect!! Some loved it, others sadly lacked knowledge of the correspondences used in the ritual and so it went over their heads, one or two were uncomfortable with the ceremonial content and were ignorant of the huge impact Crowley and his works had on Gerald Gardner and Wicca.

Goaded on by the positive feedback, and with a grim determination to vanquish ignorance, we started to plot other deeds….

We felt called to restart Pat’s old coven and combine Wicca and Thelema plus Traditional Witchcraft and other powerful currents. We had attended the Occult Conference in Glastonbury (UK) a few months before where members of the British OTO, Wiccans, Druids and Chaotes agreed that well-meaning but uneducated solitary practitioners were dumbing down the Western Esoteric Tradition, and that the various mystery paths should recognize and celebrate their common foundation and heritage, and work together to preserve the heritage instead of bickering at each other. This resonated strongly with us, Pat being a Wiccan with a strong appreciation of Thelema, and me being a Thelemite who had practiced Wicca before getting interested in Ceremonial Magick and Traditional Witchcraft.

MoonFire at Rite of Brigid, OTO Chicago 2015
MoonFire at Rite of Brigid, OTO Chicago 2015

As we were starting to discuss and plan, a friend of Pat’s who runs an earth based pagan church in a cool little gothic church in the middle of nowhere asked us for ideas on how to get more people to attend her church… So we decided to write a series of twelve zodiac rituals, using our Yule/Capricorn ritual as a model and start performing them publicly at her church to draw people in.

The first ritual, the Rite of Aquarius, was written and performed in January 2013 at Eclectic Path Earth Resources in Otsego, MI. It was followed by a Pisces Moon ritual that included a full-blown Wiccan drawing down of the moon and five-fold kiss plus the Lesser Banishing Ritual Of The Pentagram. A Mars/Aries ritual that included an Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram for Mars and used war like verses from Liber Legis chapter III followed.  Then we created a Venus Ritual that included grimoire Magick from “The Consecrated book of Black Venus,” a mercury ritual that included Liber Israfel, and so on and more through the whole year. Writing, planning and performing an 18 to 20 page hour-long ritual a month was exhausting, but also is a very magical and fulfilling rite of manifestation and will. The Rites of Eleusis, Holy Books Of Thelema, Orphic Hymns, Liber Reguli, The Star Ruby and more were all proudly put on display for those who have never witnessed traditional group magick before

Attendance started modestly with about 8 people, and rose to a high of some 35. We invited some of the regulars to be side officers, some of these asked for more training and exposure. This led to us inviting the most keen to form the beginnings of the new MoonFire coven.

As detailed knowledge of the occult arts, correspondences, et al, was lacking in some, the original rituals were written to include a great deal of explanation as to why certain tools, candles, or weapons were in use. They were also designed to subtly expose people to Thelema and Alexandrian Wicca without being evangelical. The rituals were therefore educational and taught people the use of correspondences in ritual magick, and indeed what good and deep ritual magick should be like.

MoonFire at Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Day
MoonFire at Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Day

The MoonFire coven is now very active in SW Michigan. As well as private rituals, initiatory work, and our public zodiac rites, we have spread our wings and started performing rituals in Chicago for the OTO, also Pagan Pride days in Grand Rapids and Detroit, Blackberry Farm gatherings and more. We joined the Covenant Of The Goddess. Our public Esbat remains very popular and is now its own tradition – running consistently at New Moon in Kalamazoo every full moon weekend for over a year now. We still occasionally perform some of our original twelve zodiac rituals. Our members have added to our cannon – writing rituals that are now joyously performed yearly. Many of have had the guts (and our bottomless thanks) to step up and be side officers at public rituals. NOT BAD FOR A FIRST THREE YEARS!!!……

What do I see in my crystal ball for the next three years….. I see us opening a store and pagan church/temple serving Michiana… I see more public rituals at the new store and elsewhere. I see us playing a bigger role in local pagan life such as Convocation, Pagan Fest, Pagan Pride, Pagan charities, interfaith out-reach. I see us starting an OTO body to serve Michiana. I see some of our initiates achieve their 3rd degree and start hiving to form new covens to celebrate our lineage and tradition but also continue the spirit of innovation. I see new coveners joining to bring their own spark to replace those who hive. For those who have been with us since the early days – we love you and thank you for abiding with us… To those that are new…. hold onto your hats – we’re just getting started……

Every MoonFire ritual is closed with a standard exultation composed of selected verses from Liber Legis, be it our public monthly esbats, or our private rituals or anything we do, and so I close this essay with the same.

“Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us. This is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world. The word of sin is Restriction. There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse. Be goodly therefore: dress ye all in fine apparel; eat rich foods and drink sweet wines and wines that foam! Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will. Every man and every woman is a star. And Thou hast no right but to do what thou wilt.”  

This IS a place of MoonFire.

Love is the law, love under will.