The Annual Christmas Debate

As we approach the winter holiday season, I invariably end up with something in my inbox to the tune of “What’s this Christians Stole Christmas thing I keep hearing about?” This year is no exception. And here is this year’s version of my seemingly-endless, whiskey-fueled attempt to set the record straight.


” I keep seeing reference to Christians stole Christmas? Is there a link you can point me too? I’m just curious as I’ve heard this for years. “

HOLY MOTHER OF MITTENMICE, CHILD. Back away slowly, you know not what madness you toy with. It is an unholy can of worms which opens each year around this time and believe me when I tell you, there are many of us who dread it like the clomping hooves of Krampus upon our doorsteps. It is a wraith of woe and suffering which visits us not once, but SEVERAL times each year, resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The whole mess makes me want to deck the halls with barfed-up holly and when I see those posts start to make the annual rounds, I always need a little Christmas right this very minute. If by “Christmas” we mean “copious amounts of Irish whiskey.” It makes a witch wish fervently for a silent night.

-sigh- Well, the lid’s off. Best get this over with.

There is an annual debate…and I’m using the term very generously….which centers around the juxtaposition of Christmas and Yule, the key points of which generally hinge upon the inability of some pagans to tell the difference between cultural integration and outright theft.

Key terms in this debate are “syncretism” (the blending or amalgamation of cultures, traditions, and philosophies over time) and “conflation” (the merging of two or more similar or related ideas into a single concept, not always correctly). It is largely the latter that is the cause of our pain, namely in the mistaken assumption that since Christmas and Yule occur at the same time of year and share a number of traditions and symbols that they must be the SAME holiday and/or that the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus is entirely adapted or “stolen” from older pagan festivals.

Which is about as correct as saying that because there is a Dublin in Ireland and a Dublin in Pennsylvania, both sharing a large population of Irish people, a similar climate, and a surrounding of dairy farms, that they therefore must be the same town and/or the more recent settlement’s ways were maliciously purloined from the elder.

If you’re already frowning and saying, “Wait, that makes no sense,” you’re beginning to get an idea of what several of us have to deal with every winter solstice. And every Halloween, every Easter, and more recently, on Walpurgisnacht as well. It’s maddening and headache-inducing, and trust me when I tell you, the battles get ugly.

The short version of the stance held by witches who are students of academic history (rather than whatever Llewellyn is limping to the barn with) is that Christmas and Yule share festival traditions and symbols because of generations of coexistence and cultural blending between the Church and the pagan country folk. Christmas is as much a secular holiday as it is a religious one, and many pagan traditions became secular traditions during the process of conversion. This is particularly true of symbols and celebrations connected to solstice festivals. Ergo, over time, formerly-pagan secular traditions were adapted and adopted into the secular festivities associated with the Christmas season.

Yule, as we know it in modern paganism, is largely adapted from Gerald Gardner’s interpretation of the older Norse holiday of the same name. In Scandinavia, Christmas and Yule are celebrated as one and the same. In fact, the word for Christmas in Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, and Icelandic is some permutation of Jul or Jól. (It’s their word and their festival, they can conflate the two as they see fit. Are you gonna tell them no? I’m certainly not.)

The trouble arises when witches who are students of authors who were students of Gardner (or at least his writings) claim with the majestic authority of having-no-one-around-to-say-them-nay-back-in-the-1980s that Christians, the ostensible enemy of all things pagan, are still persecuting us in the present age by daring to have a holiday with shared history and traditions to one of our own. Ravenwolf and Buckland, we’re all looking at you. Glaring, even.

(Please note that despite similar timing, traditions, colors, and symbols, nothing is EVER said of Yule and Hanukkah being conflated, which illustrates the other part of the problem: some pagans just seem to need the crutch of perceived Christian oppression in order to feel validated. And so they see fit to ruin everyone’s holiday cheer by complaining about problems which are either hundreds of years dead and gone or which never existed in the first place.)

There’s SO much more to it than this, but it begins to delve into minutiae and I’ll just wind up writing yet another book. Suffice it to say, it is far wiser and far more in keeping with the spirit of both Christmas AND Yule to offer each other peace and goodwill, rather than bickering over who really owns the religious version of intellectual property rights to decorated evergreens and flying reindeer.

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Supermoon Wish Jars

To help harness the energy of the supermoon, or any full moon, to help your wishes come true, here’s a fun little project you can do by yourself or with your witchy friends. This also makes a nice activity for esbats that doesn’t require a lot of setup.

Materials:

  • Small Jar with tight-fitting lid
  • White or Black candle
  • Incense of your choice
  • Herbs and Items representing your wish

Find a clear space to work. Make sure it’s free of fire hazards. If possible, try to work near a window through which you can see the moon. (If you don’t have one, that’s all right too, since you’ll be setting the jar out for the moonlight when finished.) Light your candle and choice of incense and get to work.

Select herbs and trinkets which fit inside the jar to represent your wish. For example, if your wish is for money or prosperity, you might include coins or metallic glitter or small craft gems. If your wish is for health, you might include vitamin pills or a charm representing medicine.

Check your books for herbs or crystals that correspond to your wish as well, to give the jar plenty of oomph. The contents of the jar can be whatever you want. Use the materials that resonate best with you.

Some basic herbs for wishmaking include:

  • Bamboo
  • Bay Leaf
  • Beech
  • Black Walnut
  • Blue Violet
  • Buckthorn
  • Chicory Root
  • Dandelion Seeds
  • Dogwood Petals
  • Lotus Root
  • Nutmeg
  • Peppermint
  • Pomegranate
  • Sage Leaf (any color)
  • Sandalwood
  • Spearmint
  • Straw
  • Sunflower
  • Tonka Bean
  • Walnut
  • Willow Bark or Leaves

Once your jar is complete, drip three drops of wax from the candle into the jar and circle the mouth of the jar three times with the incense. Then seal the jar and place the jar somewhere that it will be touched by the light of the full moon and leave it overnight.

The jar should work for about a month, or slightly longer if you’re working with a supermoon. When the next full moon rolls around, you can recharge the jar by leaving it out overnight again, or make a new jar with a new wish.

Happy Witching!

Announcement – Witches&Pagans, Dec. 2017

Fantastic news, witchlings! A review of my best-selling book, Grovedaughter Witchery, is set to be published in the December issue of Witches&Pagans magazine!

I’ve read the advance copy of the review, written by one Hugh Eckert, and I can tell you – it’s a review that ANY author would be proud to have attached to their first solo effort. It’s a red-letter day when words like “impressive” and “innovative” are used to describe a book by an indie author in the pagan circuit.

Please join me in supporting the magazine by picking up a copy next month!

Sneak Preview – The Ledger

A special NaNoWriMo treat for my hardworking beauties! I’ve decided to switch over to short fiction for this year’s project, and this is the result. Feel free to like and comment, but kindly do not reblog.

And for those who will naturally wonder, yes. Yes, this does take place in that fictional witch village I keep promising to write about.

More to come soon!

Oct. 10

To Miss Virginia Farrelly of Grant’s Court – 1 oz. Red Poppy Flowers (dried), 1 oz. Mugwort, 1 phial Powdered Dove’s Blood. Loaned copy of Cahill’s “Treatise on Somniamancy or On Dreams and Dreamwalking.” Took receipt of red ribbon and lovelock belonging to the late Mrs. Josephine Farrelly as collateral (Inventory Box 37) due to client’s past unreliability in returning borrowed books. If volume is not returned by All Saint’s Day, charge Miss Farrelly’s account for one (1) Minor Necromantic Sending. If pressed, inform Mrs. Farrelly upon summoning that her daughter is still messing about with that Parneau fellow from Tarrington. Should put an end to matters.

To Mr. Hector Greenberg of Twining Way – Weekly prescription for rheumatism (1 oz. Wintergreen, 1 oz. Willow Bark, 1 oz. Licorice Root, 1 packet muslin poultice sachets, 1 roll sterile cotton bandages). Mr. Greenberg notes some improvement in dexterity and range of motion since beginning treatment. Swelling in knuckles is noticeably diminished, and Mr. Greenberg mentioned he has been able to return to bookbinding alongside his sons.

Took return of one (1) Citrine Luck Amulet from Mr. Archibald Hager. Customer complained amulet “did not ruddy work,” and made certain uncouth comments regarding the efficacy of other shop products. Refunded purchase price, minus the cost of the Banish Misfortune working. Customer argued over this, but left abruptly upon the arrival of Constable Maynard Hughes.

Addendum, Oct 11 – Mr. Hager is currently abed, suffering a broken leg following an incident involving a faulty front step and a previously undiscovered gopher hole. Must remember to send a nice pie over to the house for his comfort.

 

NaNoWriMo, Day 11

Just like last year, my project is not proceeding as expected.

I’ve got plenty of notes for The Grovedaughter’s Year, but since so much of what I want to cover has never been written down or properly quantified except in my own head, it’s slow going.

I’ve still got work to do on The Sisters Grimmoire Vol 2, and my short horror prompts folder is rapidly filling with new ideas that need fleshing out.

I’m starting to think that perhaps I should switch, like I did in 2016, and work something different. After all, I’ve published two new books this year, and that’s an accomplishment for any writer. I think I can forgive myself if I don’t finish a third.

Mystic Moon Book-Signing, Nov. 18th

Attention Tidewater Pagans! It’s meet-and-greet time!

Working once again with the incomparable Deb Foley, I’m putting together a special book-signing event at Mystic Moon in Norfolk, VA.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, November 18th, likely from 12n – 4pm or thereabouts. Copies of Grovedaughter Witchery, Pestlework, and The Sisters Grimmoire will be available for purchase in the shop, and I will be available for autographs, photos, and to talk shop with my fellow witches.

Please feel free to stop by! Further updates to follow!

Dr. Creepen reads my story, “Knock Knock”

On the night of October 27, 2004, several residents on E—- Road in B—– called the local police station to report a disturbance at the home of one of their neighbors. The reports indicated that a possible home invasion was in progress, as a number of people in dark clothing had been seen moving furtively around the property at [REDACTED], later determined to be the residence of one Alice L—–, a single female in her mid-20s who lived alone. Some callers reported raised voices, which were taken to be indicative of a confrontation between the homeowner and a possible assailant.

Officers arrived on the scene at 23:23H, approximately two minutes after a 911 call indicated that a young woman was seen confronting one or more possible intruders at her front door. However, the caller could not give further information, due to a sudden surge in the local electrical grid which shut down the power for the entire neighborhood. When the responding officers searched the residence, the front door was ajar and there was no sign of Alice L—–.

Full Story Text Here

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