As I’m sure you all know by now, I am not the best when it comes to keeping up with rituals and holidays. Not just Craft related, I even suck when it comes to, for lack of a better word, secular holidays. Case in point, the date of Thanksgiving always eludes me. As do the dates for Memorial Day, Easter, and Presidents Day. I know they are holidays but damned if I remember when and doubled damned if I know what to do for them.
So I hope you will forgive me if I don’t write you a refresher course on Imbolc. I know that it is important and has major significance as it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox and is one of the eight Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year. I know it is often seen as a women’s holiday and is one that centers around the goddess Brigid, especially in the Wiccan tradition. But this is nothing that you can’t find out via hundreds, if not thousands, of other sources. Most, if not all, will be written much better than this, I’ll bet. But for me, it’s just not something anything I’ve ever been about.
Imbolc had never called me the way other holidays have.
I don’t know if the weirdo kid in me was just predestined to feel more comfortable with Samhain once I fully learned about it or if the end of the year is just something I prefer.
Maybe its the timing of the year that makes Ostara feel right. I’m not sure.
And Yule, well it’s Yule!! Even if I say I don’t get hyped for Yule, I do.
But Imbolc? It just doesn’t work for me.
I know that’s not much of a thing to boast about but, maybe that’s just another part of the beauty of being an eclectic witch. You find what works for you and use it. When something doesn’t, well you can leave it behind.
The key thing to remember however is that just because one thing is not your scent of incense doesn’t mean you get to ruin it for others. With being on this grand adventure of eclectic witchiness comes some responsibility. Just because it’s not right for us, doesn’t mean those that feel it is are wrong. The converse is also true. Just because our path is roomy enough for some spiritual pick and choose doesn’t mean that those that stick to a more narrower version can gatekeep and try to keep us in their lane. It’s a two-way street, and if we all check our egos, it’s one that’s big enough for all us.
When the sticky parts of something as personal as religion and spirituality are discussed it’s hard not to be defensive. And for those of us who have lived for years in a society that has always made us have to be prepared to protect ourselves, we tend to walk around with our fist clenched. But when it comes to being honest, open and understanding among each other, it’s time to unclench those fist and listen. We have enough enemies. We don’t need infighting to pick apart what those on the outside would celebrate seeing undone.
So, me not being into Imbolc isn’t a big deal. If you are, that is awesome. I hope that your Imbolc is amazing. Whatever it is you have planned, I hope it is wonderous. I hope it is beautiful and brings you happiness. (And if you are going to share it, I want to see!! I might not be doing anything, but I love seeing others doing their stuff. I’m a pro selfie/picture sharing person. If it makes you happy, share it with the world. I want to see it!)
While a whole lot of us in the Americas are frozen right now, being reminded that Spring is on the way isn’t a bad thing. Knowing that the thaw is on it’s way is something to look forward to. Enjoy whatever makes you feel good inside and fills your heart.
Overnight from January 20th to the 21st, the Moon, who happens to look a bit larger thanks to its Supermoon status, will turn a bloody dull red color as it slips into the Earth’s shadow. The event will be visible in North and South America. Parts of Western Europe and African will also get to see the event as well.
According to the site TimeandDate, for me, the partial eclipse will start at 10:33 pm with the moon getting a little red. The party will really begin around 11:41 pm when the total eclipse starts. It will reach it peak around 12:12 am and from there on start to decrease.
(Short unsolicited plug for that website: Just plug in your zipcode and boom! It will tell you the times, direction, altitude, and give you a nifty animation of the eclipse. And if you are boxed it, there are links for a live stream of the event so you watch from home. I stumbled upon via a google search and it looks to be a really handy tool.)
I am pretty psyched about the eclipse. One, because duh, it’s a moon event. It’s pretty common knowledge, witches love moon events. I’m totally one of those “Hey look at the moon!” type people.
And two, it gives me something to look forward to, and a small goal to set in the continued effort to make myself better.
Staying awake at night is one of my current struggles. I have never been a night person, but recently? It’s like a hundred times worse.
I don’t know how much of it is related to emotional exhaustion and how much of it is actually being tired, but once it gets dark and we get the kiddos to bed, my brain pretty much shuts off. All of my evening plans get canceled and I end up pre-sleeping on the couch before I shuffle off to bed to sleep some more. And to top it off, that sleep isn’t even restful! It’s frustrating having a sleep schedule that rivals that of a retirement community when you physically have a lot to do and so many ideas you want to accomplish.
So this rare occurrence gives me something to strive to stay up for. Unlike the 20/20 on Jim and Tammy Bakker that I really wanted to watch that other night, I really feel I can achieve this. (Listen, they were local and it was a huge scandal. Tammy Faye and her full face of makeup can never be forgotten. Also, I love stories about disgraced pastors. It’s a guilty pleasure I will never feel sorry for.)
My plan tonight is pretty simple. Seeing as how I’m more of a play it by ear witch than a ritual specialist, I plan to just spend some time observing the Eclipse. I’m going to take out some of my crystals out for charging, burn a new palo santo stick, and, until the cold makes me too uncomfortable, recharge myself under the Blood Moon.
While I am not an astrologist, I do accept that the eclipse and the full moon are agents of change. They are symbols that everything is in flux and that sometimes we have to be open to the shake-up of cyclic nature of the world around us. They are a reminder that all things, all ideas and more importantly, all struggles, are temporary. We are forever changing and experiencing growth. And if the Moon can travel into the path of the Earth, and change her color, while in the middle of her shape changing dance, we can change the things about us that we are struggling with.
And I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty damn inspirational.
I hope no matter where you are Dear Readers, you take advantage of the Magick of the Blood Moon tonight. Even if it’s from indoors or online. Whatever you need to replenish and replace during this amazing event, whatever you need to heal or fix, I hope the Moon and her special event provide you some support and clarity.
As this year slips quietly into the next one, I’m thinking a lot about the passage of time.
I told you about turning another year older a few posts ago in Chapter 34. And while I mostly used that post to describe the day, I did speak briefly about how now I need to start letting go of so much of the baggage associated with my birthday. Like Elsa in Frozen, I need to Let It Go.
(I have a four-year-old little girl. I’ve seen Frozen more times this year than I’ve seen Law and Order. It’s worked it’s way into my brain. Please send help.)
Part of letting it go is accepting that while I’m still knee deep in the waters of motherhood, cronehood is within my sights.
Physically, I can no longer make babies. In August of this year, after years of struggling with birth control, I had a tubal ligation. Four months later, I am not sad nor do I mourn the loss of the ability to make a new life. Maybe it’s because I’ve supplied the population with quite a few new faces. I’ve done my part and met my baby quota. I honestly no longer get that fever feeling when I see a cute little dumpling of a baby. I’m ok with never having to carry a child again.
The three children that I am circled by are more than enough. And while they are my world, every day I can see them growing slightly more independent and getting closer to the edge of the nest. While that might strike fear in the hearts of some mothers, it makes me really happy. I want them to be free to be themselves. They have to fly away sometimes. They have to be complete people outside of me. I will be the tree they can always return to, not the anchor that weighs them down. It’s going to happen, they are going to get older.
And you know what? I want to get older too.
But it seems that the world keeps telling me that I shouldn’t want that.
Every time I open one of the magazines that show up at my house randomly or scroll down the social media platform I’ve been meaning to quit, I get reminded of all the steps I should be taking to keep my impending age at bay.
I’m shown creams to stop wrinkles and spots, dyes to hide gray hairs, undergarments that lift, flatten and boost body parts that need to be modified. It doesn’t even end there. I’m reminded by billboard ads and radio jingles that there are plastic surgeons who can make me look younger and thinner in just a few trips. And if that’s too drastic of a change, I could always just purchase a Groupon for a spa nearby and get some Botox and eyelash extensions for 40% off. I don’t have to let time effect how I look. According to all these ads, I have the power and the opportunities to rally against it and forever maintain my youth.
(Just to put this out there, I am a huge proponent of dyeing your hair all the colors of the rainbow and I support every person that decides that plastic surgery is for them.)
But what if I don’t want to participate in that war? What if I don’t want to hold on to my youth?
My issues lie in that I do not support being told by people I don’t know that I NEED these things in my life. I do not support the idea that I must take part in these activities as some act against my body. I don’t like the idea that I should wage war on myself just because the years are changing my outer husk. I sure as hell don’t appreciate being held to a standard of beauty that I didn’t sign up for. If I want to change my hair color, fuck yeah I’m going to do it. If I want plastic surgery, fuck yeah I’m going to get it. But it’s going to me for my own reasons. Not to fit into so some “forever young” standard.
Listen, I think women are beautiful. That includes all women. From the young, shining and dewy-eyed to the old, bent, and wrinkled. I want to live a life that shows I’ve done both. I want to experience both ends (and the middle) of my womanhood with the same amount of reverence. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.
By pushing us to worship youth, our culture pushes us to hate aging. And there is a huge fault in that. We demean and devalue the act of aging and of growing because we fear moving away from what is accepted. We see being old as being less. And we really fucking fear being seen as less. Less beautiful, less worthy, less important, anything that is deemed less, we strive against. We have fought long and hard to not be seen as less because we’ve been told endlessly how just being a woman makes us such. So for something as simple as the passage of time to render us useless is unnerving. That is why there are billion dollar industries that make their money by telling women that there is only a fleeting window of beauty they can attain. They don’t want us to see the beauty in all walks of life. They want us to desire to be unblemished, unmarked, untouched maidens forever. Just the type of maidens they, conveniently enough, find attractive.
It’s a little messed up, isn’t it?
Cronehood is just as worthy as maidenhood and motherhood. It is not diminished because of the ability or frailty of the human body. It is not diminished because of the perceived lack of beauty. We are not made less because our bodies are weathered by Father Time. If anything, we are made more. The knowledge we acquire through the tribulations we face accumulates. If we mature as we age, by the time we have reached the age of the crone, we should be a wealth of experiences and knowledge. We should be a library ready to share with those around us. We should be well-written books full of adventures, ready to share our worn pages and the stories within.
(Obviously, this is not always the case. Personality disorders, untreated mental illness, and being an asshole are a motherfucker. The inability to change and accept your faults hinders the ability to grow and learn. But that’s talk for another day.)
I don’t want to be frozen in place forever. Life was not ment to be lived in stasis. I want to evolve and grow old. More than anything, I want to experience life and learn. I want to learn all the things. The good ones and the bad. And life can only be learned by undergoing the passage of time.
Life is fleeting. We must respect and enjoy its passing.
So bring on the wrinkles. Bring on the gray hair. I welcome the bent fingers and curved spine and the age spots and the declining eyesight. I want to be the old woman with silver hair, covered in tattoos, sitting under the old oak tree teaching grandchildren how to snap peas. Or how to tell if a storm is going to be bad. I want to tell them stories like my grandmaws told me. I look forward to my older self and all the adventures that await. I don’t care what society tells me. When it’s time for me to be a crone, I will wear the title proudly.
For the record, when it comes to Christmas, I’m kind of a Grinch. Christmas music annoys me. The endless rush of shopping spikes my anxiety like a kid left unattended at a trip at a dessert bar. And while I love gift giving and sharing a huge feast with people I care about, the strain of getting together and rushing about, traffic and schedules, wish lists and shipping dates, often leave me stretched thin.
We could blame it on the martyrs in my Christmas Past who made the holiday less a family-focused event and more an over the top drama fueled pageant. You know the kind of dog and Pony show that becomes a “my way or the highway” fueled by Martha Stewart worship and spiked with guilt. We could also blame it on growing up poor and being the oldest who understood “that the youngins need it more”. Even if the youngins in question weren’t siblings but cousins, second cousins, friends kids, and kids at school the had been to the house a time or two. Or finally, we could chalk it up to not being a Christian and year after year having everyone tell you that the reason for this season, the only thing we are really celebrating for, is a God you don’t believe in.
I know all of that makes me sound like a big old sour-ass. It paints me about as bitter as the crab apples at grew in my grandpa’s front yard. It adds just a little bit of validity to the jokes my husband and I throw back and forth about my saltiness level (which is somewhere between the level of rent and Willie Nelson). Maybe I am a salty old crone who fun sucks the life out of the party. Or maybe I’ve just had it with the typical holiday rigamarole.
Observations about my personal flaws aside, let’s get back to that whole reason for the season issue I mentioned earlier. Being told year after year that Jesus is the real reason for the season, by loved and unloved ones alike, takes it toll on a poor Pagan girl. That’s why out of all the holiday shenanigans, my two favorite things about Christmas are watching my loved ones be happy and pointing out all the wonderfully Pagan things being celebrated by nonPagan people.
Let’s start with an easy one.
The Christmas Tree
There’s a lot of Pagan lore about the Christmas tree but it’s roots are commonly said to be in the story of an English Benedictine monk named Boniface who was doing some missionary work in Germany during the eighth century.
One day Ole Boniface was doing whatever missionaries do when he observed some locals performing sacrifices in front of an oak tree for their god Thor. This angered Ole Boni because by God, Thor was a false God! How dare these native folks to worship their own gods in their own land while he was there!! So he grabbed his axed and felled the mighty oak tree in an effect to stop the heathery where it stood. When he wasn’t struck dead by the local’s gods for, you know, shitting all over their holy site, Boniface decided he could use this as a teaching moment. He hauled the tree inside and thus began the Christmas Tree tradition. Like many holy people after him, he would take something belonging to the Pagan locals and claim it in his God’s name thus using it as an outreach and a subjugating tool.
From that story alone, it’s clear to see that even before dumb old Boniface was roaming the German countryside, the German people were using trees in their devotion to the Norse gods. It was Boni’s appropriation of the tree worship that helped bring it into mainstream usage.
So remember, every time you see straight-laced Christians oohing and awwing over a big pretty Christmas tree, they got the idea from a practice much older than their religion. They got it from us.
Of course, this is just one of many different stories that feature a connection between trees and pagan practices. Trees are a key element of Nature and Nature is a foundation of Paganism. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, because I really try to be an accepting and nice person, but it boils down to this: Pagans did it first and when Christians saw it, they stole it and rebranded it without giving us credit. And then they tried to erase our fingerprints from its history.
Maybe I’ll use a little of this long-held salt to make some salt dough ornaments with my kiddos.
The Man Who Put All Those Presents Under The Tree
Well, if you didn’t know that Santa’s origins were Pagan in nature, I’m not sure where you’ve been.
While we most commonly know Santa Claus as the Coca-Cola red suit, white-bearded big belly version, we also all pretty much have a passing knowledge of him as Ole St. Nick and Father Christmas. Some of us are probably even familiar with the story of the bishop St. Nicholas and the legend about how he provided gifts, including doweries, to the poor. The juicy part of Santa’s history that a lot of people don’t have knowledge about is that Santa has a lot more in common Odin.
Before Christianity took over Germany, the people there (probably the same ones Boniface ran into) celebrated Yule like many of us do. And during Yule, as many of us know, The Wild Hunt happens. It is part of that happening that many believe influenced the idea of Santa for those who don’t subscribe to the Norse beliefs.
In her 1972 book Discovering Christmas Customs and Folklore: A Guide to Seasonal Rites Throughout the World folklorist Margaret Baker postulates that “”the appearance of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, whose day is the 25th of December, owes much to Odin, the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Giftbringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts. […] Odin, transformed into Father Christmas, then Santa Claus, prospered with St Nicholas and the Christchild, became a leading player on the Christmas stage.”
You are free to believe what you will. I personally can totally see how the lore of the Odin could be taken and morphed into the idea of Santa Claus. There would have to be a lot of creative editing, but as we have seen, for the Church, that has never been a problem. Once again, I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I’ll be damned (pun intended) if after a while it doesn’t feel like most of their canon is just hastily written rewrites.
Before we leave the topic of Santa, I’d just like to throw this in for consideration. While originally, Santa’s sleigh was only pulled by one reindeer in Old Santeclaus with Much Delight ,an anonymous poem published in 1821, by the time Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicolas” came out two years later, Santa had upped his caravan to eight reindeer. The interesting part?
Odin’s horse Sleipnir has eight legs. I mean, I’m just saying.
Deck The Halls
Even the decorations Pinterest is all about this time of year aren’t something that just organically popped up in the mind of the Christian faith.
In order to protect the celebration of the birth of the brand new baby Jesus, early Christians would often make a wreath of holly and hang it on their door. In Roman mythology, holly was the sacred plant of the god Saturn so this was a clever way for them to make it seem like they were celebrating Saturnalia when in fact, they weren’t. Since then, holly has been overtaken and used heavily as a prominent decoration.
And if you want to get petty, which you know I do, you could even say that the tried and true holiday colors of green and red are in fact lifted from the red of the holly berries and the green of their leaves.
Another plant that has become part of common Christmas decorations is the mistletoe. Originally used for more than stealing the random kiss, mistletoe has been held as a sacred plant by the Celts, the Norse, and the Native Americans. Used by as a symbol of peace and joy, during the Roman era, enemies would meet under the mistletoe to reconcile their differences. Thus, during midwinter, it would be placed in houses and temples to appease the gods.
In Norse mythology, mistletoe is a big fucking deal to the goddess Frigga. The weak little mistletoe was the one plant that Frigga did not make promise her to leave her son Baldur unharmed. So of course, it was the one that Loki went and found when he was ready to stir some shit up. It, in the end, made up the spear that killed Bladur. The importance of the story of Baldur’s death and later resurrection is a pivotal part of the Norse belief. And the mistletoe plays an important role in it. There are different endings and interpretations to the tale but I’m pretty sure none of them include seeing Loki seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe.
I don’t want you to think I have waged my own personal war on Christmas. I haven’t. I wish people “Merry Christmas!” when it’s expected and when I truly mean it. And I truly mean it often! Although I usually say “Happy Christmas!” instead because I’m a socially awkward weirdo. I still want those people around me to have the very best holiday they possibly can. I do wish them well. I want them to celebrate however they feel is appropriate and makes them happy. I want everyone to be jolly and full of love, even if its just a few hours. If anything, the world needs more of that.
But I also want the world to stop mandating that we celebrate the season one specific way by using trying to pass off time-honored bits of other religions’ traditions as belonging to one specific religion. Not everything falls under the Christian umbrella. Not everything is about the Chrisitan God. There are many gods, many traditions, and many religions under that holiday umbrella.
So really, there are many, many, reasons for the season. And if you look hard, you can see them all.
I am standing in my front yard. The light from the full moon shines down upon me. Coupled with the warm glow from a light deep within my home, my face is illuminated as I call the corners and cast a circle in the grass below me.
In the circle, a small collection of crystals glitter in the moonlight. A pitcher of collected rainwater reflects the broken sky above, with glimpses of stars and the Moon herself peeking through.
The late October night around me swells. The crisp air, finally fulfilling Autumn’s definition causes goosebumps on my exposed flesh. I raise my arms in total awe and thankfulness. It is late and the neighbors have long turned off the lights in their windows. The street has been asleep for hours, no one is out but me.
The wind rattles the old rosemary bush near my front door and the smell fills the air. And in that, lost in the smell, the cold, and the connection to the moon, I am home.
Now let me tell you how it really happened.
While all of that is true, and all of that did happen, it probably looked nothing like how you just imagined it did.
We tend to think of any working of witchcraft as this ultra-feminine well maintain beautiful artform. Basically, we either all look like a young perfectly made up Stevie Nicks with our flowing layers of hair and fabric twirling in the breeze or like the cast of some CW show. I can assure you Dear Readers, that ain’t me.
As I stood there under the moon, in all my glory, I was anything but well maintained. My hair, which is dyed black, except for the bleached part around my face, was tied on the top of my head in a messy loose ponytail. It’s only bleached in that area to hide the gray that is coming with a vengeance at my temples. I can’t wear it in a bun because it the tightness gives me headaches. So I have like this messy valley girl 80s vibe constantly just to keep it out of my way.
I wasn’t wearing one of those cool witchy flowy outfits for my ritual either. I had on a pair of Halloween theme leggings I got from Wal-Mart because they were cheap and super comfy. Plus I’m a sucker for anything with a pumpkin and a bat on it.
I was also wearing an oversized Golden Girls t-shirt with the collar cut out. I had borrowed my husband’s slide on sandals because I’m a baby and my feet are really tender. Walking outside in the dark barefoot seemed like trouble waiting to happen so the grass, which was a little longer than it should have been for this time of year, tickled my toes.
The sounds of the night that surrounded me? Most of them were dog barks and police sirens. And someone who really needs a new muffler.
The romanticization of witchcraft in modern culture has given everyone, on both sides of the broom, the wrong idea about what is and isn’t witchcraft.
While witchcraft can be long black dresses and All Black Everything, it can also be burning sage while listening to Johnny Cash and wearing your ratty sweatpants. It can be all rituals and rites but it can also be drawing sigils with mustard on your kid’s sandwiches on while packing their lunches.
It can be lighting candles and sprinkling Flordia water or it can be noticing that certain bird landed on your car on a certain day. I think the amount of normal that is actually in witchcraft gets painfully underrepresented.
We are not all fairy tale creatures or lead characters in a story. We just normal people who have normal people lives. Yes, we use magick and talk with spirits and some of us have gods and goddesses. But we have bills and jobs, some of us have kids and cats and laundry to do too.
We are our magick and our magick is us.
It’s as wonderful and really at times as boring as we are. If we are going to let it be part of us, it’s got to be all of us.
The good parts and the waiting in line at the grocery story parts.
The helping the kids with homework parts and the whistling for the rain parts.
The being mad in traffic parts and manifesting change parts.
The praying that there is enough gas in the tank to get home parts and the making shit happen parts.
It’s not quite shadow work. These are not hidden parts of ourselves we have forgotten. These are parts of ourselves we overlook because they are so mundane.
This is everyday work. It’s part of who we are and what we do. As much as it’s ingrained in us, it is in our Magick.
So never feel bad if your practice doesn’t look anything like what you’ve read or seen before. Don’t feel like you’re a failure because your altar isn’t Tumblr or Instagram perfect. And never, ever feel you aren’t witchy enough. What you see other’s presenting is not the standard you should measure yourself or your Craft by. Other people and their path, whether real or for just for show, has diddly squat to do with yours.
You and your magick are just fine the way you are. You’re normal. It’s normal. It doesn’t have to be flashy. It just has to work for you.