Just an FYI this site will be going down for maintenance in the next couple of hours. Should be up by tomorrow. I apologize for any incovenience.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
by Clement Clarke Moore. This is a wonderful poem that in my multi-faith household is a great turn to for the holidays. I have to walk the fine line between Paganism and Christianity. So I take the time to sit down and read this story to both of my kids. Maybe you will want to do the same, so here it is. Merry Christmas!

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in
my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Lessons of Winter

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Last year I posted this article on Paganpages.org. And since I am still in holiday mode, Christmas is coming, I wanted to repost that here. 

Winter is really here. In most parts of the United States the cold weather and snow has set in. But what does this season mean to us Pagans? We know about Yule and the rebirth of the Sun, but what about that period between Yule and Imbolc? I believe that every season and every Sabbat can teach us lessons if we only have the ears to hear and the eyes to see.

This season is traditionally a time of rest and recovery for the world. A time, when in the natural world, most trees shed their leaves and many animals turn in to hibernate for the long winter. It was also a time of rest for mankind. When the toils of the the year were finished and in many villages the people gathered around the hearth to share stories and count together the blessings of the previous year.

But what place does any of this have in our modern world? A world that never seems to sleep much less take a breath. The answer for many is 'I'll rest when I am dead.'

For me this answer is far from being the correct one. The modern world's way of doing things teaches impatience and greed. And it forces us to run at breakneck pace, only to get us to the grave quicker and with far more regrets.

And this is not the message that I wish to pass on to my children. As a Pagan parent one of my responsibilities is to instill the values taught by the Goddess and God. Those values that are inherent and visible in the world around us.

The lessons I have learned from winter and that I in turn pass on to my children are many. And if you join me in looking at the world around us then I can show you a few examples.

I teach my children to be as still and quiet as a winter pond. For if we are always busy then how can we hear the Gods when They whisper to us?

They learn to be patient as well. For as we look around at the Earth and the plants upon it, and watch them seem to die and wither away, hope could be easily lost. But we know that if we wait long enough then the Earth and the plants will bloom again. This is important because sometimes the Will of the Gods are as equally mysterious and take as a long time to make sense.

But the most important lesson is for them to remember the importance of Family. For in the loving embrace of Family they can truly feel the arms of the Gods around them as well. As I said earlier, Winter was a time that friends and family gathered together around the hearth to share stories. I believe that this was important for the cohesiveness of the family and the community. And it is something that, today, is missed and is desperately needed.

This month is also marks the passage from one calendar year to another, a traditional time to make resolutions. What will our resolutions be? Will you join me and resolve to pass on the lessons the world shows us, the Lessons of Winter?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Twas the Night Before Yule

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This is a delightful poem by Richard De Angelis, that I found again after hearing it years ago in ritual. Hope you all like it as much as I did.

'Twas the night before Yule, when all 'cross the heath,
not a being was stirring; Pagan, faerie, or beast.
Wassail was left out & the alter adorned,
to rejoice that the Sun King would soon be reborn.

The children lay sleeping by the warmth of the hearth,
their dreams filled with visions of belov'd Mother Earth.
M'lady & I beneath blankets piled deep,
had just settled down to our own Solstice sleep.

Then a noise in the night that would leave us no peace,
Awakened us both to the honking of geese.
Eager to see such a boisterous flock,
When we raced to the window, our mouths dropped in shock!

On the west wind flew a gaggle of geese white & gray,
With Frau Holda behind them in her giftladen dray.
The figure on her broomstick in the north sky made it clear,
La Befana was approaching to bestow Yuletide cheer.

From the south came a comet more bright than the moon,
And we knew that Lucia would be with us soon.
As these spirits sailed earthward o'er hilltops & trees,
Frau Holda serenaded her feathery steeds:

"Fly Isolde! Fly Tristan! Fly Odin & Freya!
Fly Morgaine! Fly Merlin! Fly Uranus & Gaea!
"May the God & the Goddess inside you soar,
From the clouds in the heavens to yon cottage door."

As soft & silent as snowflakes they fell:
Their arrival announced by a faint chiming bell.
They landed like angels, their bodies aglow.
Their feet left no marks in the new fallen snow.

Before we could ponder what next lay in store,
There came a slow creaking from our threshold door.
We crept from our bedroom & were spellbound to see
...There in our parlor stood the Yule Trinity!

Lucia, the Maiden, with her head wreathed in flame,
Shown with the radiance for which she was named.
The Lightbringer' s eyes held the joy of a child,
And she spoke with a voice that was gentle, yet wild:

"May the warmth of this household ne'er fade away."
Then she lit our Yule log which still burns to this day.
Frau Holda in her down cloak stood regal & tall;
The Matron of Solstice, the Mother of all.

Under her gaze we felt safe & secure.
Her voice was commanding, yet almost demure:
"May the love of this family enrich young & old."
And from the folds of her cloak showered coins of pure gold.

Le Befana wore a kerchief on her silvery hair;
The veil of the Crone who has secrets to share.
In her eyes gleamed a wisdom only gained by spent youth.
Her voice was a whisper but her words rung with truth:

"May health, glad tidings, and peace fill these rooms."
And she banished misfortune with a sweep of her broom.
They then left a gift by each sleeping child's head,
Took a drink of our wassail, and away they sped.

While we watched them fly off through the night sky we laughed,
At the wondrous magick we had found in the Craft
As they departed, the spirits decreed
Merry Yule To You All & May All Blessed Be!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

God of the Week -- Oak King

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The last time I talked about the God, I spoke about the Holly King. But after Yule, which is this Monday, the Oak King takes his place. The ruler over the light half of the Year. He is the sapling and the young stag leaping through the woods. As you read in my children's story, he is the Sun King as well. Born on Yule he takes on the task to revive the Earth, his Goddess.

One of his other names is the Horned Lord. And as such I figured I would share a poem I wrote a while back entitled, 'The Charge of the Horned Lord'.
I am the Horned Lord, Cernunnos, guardian of the cycle of birth and rebirth. I am the youth of Spring and exuberant life. My breath is the warming Southern wind. I am the Oak dressed in Brown and Green. I am the protective hunter, King of the animals and I am the wild Pan. Lovemaking, laughter and feasting are all testaments to my power and might. To love is to worship me. I am the Lord of the Greenwood, The Sun King and Heaven's Lord among countless other incarnations. I give to man these gifts; little children of all ages, ecstasy of the spirit and of the body, and I provide the path to self-illumination.

I am the Sun and consort to the Earth Mother and the Star Goddess. I am the priest of the Sun. I am the gnostic upon the throne at the center of all life. And I am the leader of the Wild Rade that leads to the Underworld, which is your inner self.

I am the fire in every beating heart and the waters of the soul, the Earth of the body and the breath of the mind. Call on me as protector and warrior for I am the God of Battles.
I bring the rain, the ultimate promise of life, hear my voice and my laughter in the sound of the falling rain and be joyous.
Blessed Be!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

God of the Week -- Holly King

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
OK so this is more of an aspect then a specific deity but it is probably one of the most worshiped aspects at this time of the year.

I saw a discussion the other day on whether Santa Claus can be used as a deity. Some thought that since he was close to Saint Nicholas that he was a Christian Saint and therefore could not be or at the very least they did not fell comfortable in doing that. But I took it a step farther because all the Saints are just re-characterization of the more ancient Pagan Deities. What I was speaking of was the aspect of the Holly King.

About eight years ago I was at a public Yule ritual that had an older man dressed as the woodland Santa. His job was to portray the Holly King in the ritual and read the story of the Night Before Yule. So maybe it is because of that I see the two as one and the same.

All of this being said, what and who else is the Holly King? What is his game and his purpose?

He is Jupiter, streaking across the sky. He is Cronos, or Old Man Time. He is Odin on his eight-legged horse.

While He is responsible for the winter season and the suffering of the Goddess and the Earth. He is also responsible for bringing us gifts and the Earth a much needed and deserved rest.

So turn to him in this time of reflection and give thanks for that chance to breathe. And if you feel that you can't take the time, then slow down and ask him for that time. But don't let this resting time be a period of laziness. Instead let it be a time for renewal and rebirth.

As you saw in my children's story this past week, he is also the gift giver. And while it is to make up for his wrongdoings it also serves its purpose in the grand scheme of things. 

But enough of my thoughts. What do you all think of the Holly King? Do you call him in your circles at this Sabbat? Am I off base on my concept of Santa Claus being a personification of him? Let's start some discussion. 

Blessed Be!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yule Recipes -- Main Course

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ham is the most traditional dish for this holiday season. And while a ham is easy to cook, the glaze for it is sometimes tougher to make. Here is a recipe that I have used on several occasions to fantastic reviews.
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp Dark Rum
In a medium size saucepan whisk together and heat to just before boiling these ingredients. Pour over a fully cooked ham and bake for ten to fifteen minutes more. Now don't worry about the alcoholic content the cooking should cook out the alcohol. If you are still antsy then you can let the glaze simmer for about five minutes.

One more thing on hams, I think that ham tends to have to much salt for human consumption. So I boil some water and place the ham in it for about five to ten minutes. This will serve to bring out much of the salt.

And for the Vegans here is a recipe courtesy of veganfamily.co.uk.

Sage and Onion Roast Potatoes

  • 4 teaspoons of dried sage or 8 teaspoons of freshly chopped sage
  • 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 tablespoons of medium oatmeal
  • Potatoes, peeled and cut to desired size (this coating is enough for about 4 or 5 lbs/2 or 3 kilos.)
  • salt to taste
Par boil the potatoes then just when they are beginning to soften remove from heat and drain. Place in baking tray and rub the coating all over them (careful!) - roast in a hot oven until nice and crispy (30 minutes plus). You might want to baste with a little more oil half way through for extra crispiness!

Variation: sesame roast potatoes - coat the potatoes in sunflower oil and plenty sesame seeds before roasting - this has a lovely flavour too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finding the Perfect Yule Tree for Your Family

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This past weekend my family and I went out and got our Yule tree. I know it was early but with visitation schedules this happened to be the only time before it was almost too late. We choose to get a live tree because we like the idea of bringing a little nature into our homes at this time of the year.

But where does the concept of the Yule tree actually come from? Many stories are out there that talk about the Christian origins of decorating a tree. But I believe the tree was the replacement of the Yule log as fireplaces became less common.

It also serves as a symbol of rebirth and life everlasting, both things that are present in the pagan Yule ceremonies. Evergreens have always held a special place in the heart of men, the only tree that seems to conquer winter and all its harsh weather.

With all of this being said some of you may be wondering what is the best way to pick a tree? Well for those is a list copied from commercialappeal.com.
  • Look for a tree with a healthy green appearance.
  • Run your hand along the branches to see if the needles are fresh and flexible. They should not come off in your hand.
  • Bump the trunk of the tree on the ground. If lots of needles fall off, the tree is not fresh. You can expect a few brown needles to fall off.
  • Make sure the base of the trunk is straight and 6 to 8 inches long so it can fit into a tree stand.
  • If you see splits in the trunk, the tree may have dried out previously.
  • Locally grown trees are usually fresher and less expensive than trees that have been shipped from a distance.
  • If possible, cover your tree with some type of tarp during transport to prevent it from drying out, particularly if it is going to be transported on top of your car.
  • If the tree is going to be kept outside several days before it goes into the house, place it out of direct sun and wind to keep it from drying out.
  • If the base of the tree has been cut within the last four to six hours, it will not need to be recut; if longer, the base should be recut so the tree can absorb water.
  • Cut straight across the trunk (not at an angle) and remove an inch or more from the bottom.
  • A cut tree will absorb a lot of water, particularly during the first week. It can use four to six quarts of water per day.
I recommend getting a real tree if you have the room, if for no other reason, at least because it is better for the environment. There are no readily accessible places at which to recycle a fake PVC tree (at least in my area). And a Yule tree farm, even if they use pesticides and herbicides, at least they replant what they cut and in the meantime the uncut trees are absorbing carbon dioxide and putting out oxygen.

And when the season is over, you have several options as what to do with the tree. You can compost for mulch, sometimes your local municipality may take it and use it themselves for mulch. My local municipality has a program in which they take the tree and sink it local ponds for fish habitats.

A third option is to buy a tree with roots and plant it in your yard, if you have the room. I'm not qualified to talk about finding the right species for your soil and climate. So seek advice from a qualified professional. But remember that this tree should only be indoors for about a week.

So good luck in your Yule tree hunting.

Blessed Be!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Yule Recipes - The Duck

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I know, I know Yule is like three weeks away but I am already thinking about what to cook. Earlier today I had a conversation with a coworker about a duck that I cooked a couple years back. Then it led into a conversation about ham and the different glazes that we had both used over the years.

So I figured to kick off this month's recipes I would start with the duck.

Duck tends to really greasy and who really wants to eat a greasy piece of meat. Even the least health conscious of us don't want to consume all of that.

To cut this grease down I first pierce the skin and underlying fat in multiple locations being careful to not pierce the meat. I then dip the raw bird in a pot of boiling water for around 10 to 15 seconds before I cook it. You will find that a large portion of the grease will now be in the pot.

I like the flavor of duck so I didn't prepare a marinade or even a sauce for the bird. But what I did do was fire up my charcoal grill and cooked the bird on indirect heat with a drip pan under it to catch whatever grease was left, to avoid flareups.

To make sure your duck is done you should roast it at 325 degrees for around 2 to 3 hours, reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Since I may wind up cooking another bird this year, I would be interested in hearing of any great glazes or sauces that you guys might have. So if you have one put in the comments.

Blessed Be!