This series began with childhood memories of chilly winter nights. As a kid, I remember how the cold seemed to contract around you, drawing you closer to loved ones, making your world seem small enough to hold in the palm of your hand... There was a comfort in having nowhere to go and nothing to do, but also a restlessness and excitement to know that outside, a winter storm was raging.
Birches have long been a symbol of new beginnings -- they're a pioneer species, one of the first to regrow in an area after a natural disaster, and their bark contains oils that make it especially good for kindling life-giving fires in the hearth (and heart) during the coldest, darkest months of the year.
Some modern Druids and Celtic polytheists celebrate Samhain on the day of the first frost. And so the first morning in autumn that I wake up to find the land crisp with crystallized mist clinging to each blade of grass, edging each fallen leaf... that is a sacred morning.
Usually Starbucks incorporates a wide variety of anti-Christian imagery onto their winter holiday-themed cups, but this year the Seattle coffee company has completely capitulated to the growing pressure from right-wing fundamentalist Christian groups to "put the Christ back in Yule" by creating a holiday cup design that not only rejects all the Pagan symbolism of this blessed time of year, but actively promotes a Christian worldview. Don't believe me? Check out this breakdown of Christian symbolism...
A couple years ago I wrote 7 Ways to Enjoy a Sex-Free Beltane, in honor of all those single and/or disinterested folks out there who were looking to celebrate the reason for the season without necessarily having to "get down," "jump on it" or "funk it up." Weirdly, that post did not become the runaway viral sensation I was anticipating.
This year, though, things will be different. If there's one thing people like more than having sex, it's avoiding death and thoughts thereof...
They say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that's only half the truth.
In the face of our assembly-line obsession with efficiency and expendability, keystone species like mistletoe serve as powerful reminders of why individuality is so essential to abundance. True prosperity lies in the diversity of our communities and the ways that we support that diversity with our own unique gifts. It can be lonely, even a little frightening, to be different. But nature is messy. Nature is wild...
It all started this past winter solstice when Jeff's youngest daughter told us that she was going to be a dentist.
Actually, what she said was that she guessed she'd have to be a dentist, because everybody knows you can't make a living as an artist.
Our heads kind of exploded at that point, so what happened next was a bit of a blur. I vaguely remember sitting her down at the kitchen table and asking her why this sudden about-face -- she'd been talking about wanting to be an artist for the last several years which, for a nine-year-old, is almost a lifetime. I remember treading carefully, lest I inadvertently suggest that being a dentist wasn't perfectly okay, too, if that's what she really wanted. The world needs good dentists, after all. But what the world doesn't need is a grumpy, jaded dentist who's secretly always wanted to be an artist instead. That doesn't end well for anyone.
Because I'm such a Hipster Pagan that I've come full circle, in recent years I've stopped disparaging New Year's Resolutions for being "too mainstream" and decided to re-embrace the practice. After all, the word resolution is a vast and complex universe in itself. Like words such as integrity, balance and attention, resolution can mean many things, and spending some time considering its nuances bears some surprising (and surprisingly delicious) fruit.
So for those of you who might be on the fence about making resolutions for the coming year, here are some thoughts on what resolution means to me.
As Christmas approaches once again, I find myself wondering, wandering in a liminal space. Asking myself how to teach children that realizing their own inner Santa Claus is infinitely more challenging than believing in some unlikely literal jolly-old-elf, and infinitely more rewarding. Asking myself where I belong, where we all belong, and how we belong to each other. Asking myself how I can tell the stories of my ancestors, pagan and Christian alike, to the children of my partner. What can I say that will be meaningful and relevant for them, that will share with them the "spirit of the season" that I have come to know and love and value? What will I say when they come singing, a penny for my thoughts?
Sunny Solstice blessings to you all! Exactly ten years ago today, I celebrated my first Pagan ritual. The sun was high, the wind was lazy, the earth was warm beneath our feet, and the bugs were out in swarms after a wet spring! We shared bread, poured libations of water and made offerings of lavender and foxglove. This year, I gathered lavender and foxglove from the garden in front of my apartment building, on the other side of the continent from that first solstice celebration. Traditions continue, memory endures. I'm looking forward to the next ten years!