The Montreal Gazette sends reporter Al Kratina to cover a Yule Fair presented by the Montreal Pagan Resource Centre. What did he learn? That Pagans didn’t conform to his pop-culture associations and had their own winter religious observances!
“…paganism, it seems, involves neither Griselda the Witch from the Hilarious House of Frightenstein or minor key guitar solos on Viking metal records, as I had believed. “The word pagan is very generally used,” explained Robyn Stroll, a manager at occult shop Le Mélange Magique, which hosted the fair. “One can use ‘pagan’ to refer to anyone who follows a non-traditional religion, but more specifically it’s people who have a religion based in … a balance with nature.” This balance often includes a celebration of the Dec. 21 solstice.”
While the article on the whole is friendly, I still get hives when reporters try to be funny by cracking wise about some pop-culture witch or wizard while writing about Pagans. I can only imagine how a story about a local Catholic parish that repeatedly referenced “Father Ted” would be received by the faithful. But why settle for a fair and pageant when you can directly participate in a carefully secularized Winter Solstice celebration out in nature? That’s what’s on offer at Wisconsin’s Aldo Leopold Nature Center on December 19th.
“On Friday Dec. 19, the non-profit environmental education group Nature Net will hold the 8th annual Winter Solstice Celebration at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona. Under the night sky, participants will take part in a nighttime hike through the preserve, enjoy Yule log cake and hot cocoa and gather around a Yule log fire to learn about Solstice traditions from around the world, many of which have been celebrated for more than a millennium … While the norm during the winter season is to stay indoors and warm up on the couch, not being outside means missing out on some of the wonderful aspects of the season — including the other activities planned by Nature Net, including making Green Man masks (another legendary figure of the return of spring, growth and vitality), the Wassail Ceremony (drinking wassail “brew” and blessing the apple tree) and the Candlelight Ceremony (voicing gratitude for the good things in our lives during the past year and expressing our hopes for the new year).”
That actually sounds more robust and better planned than some explicitly Pagan celebrations I’ve attended! Looks like the nature center decided to graft in a little nature religion. Is this increased attention to pre-Christian traditions and Pagan groups during the winter a sign of our growth and inevitable mainstreaming? A secular yearning for tradition without the baggage and dogma of organized religion? A natural by-product of our increasingly post-Christian world? Perhaps it is a mixture of all these things. Next thing you know Italy’s La Befana will start replacing St. Nick!