Today’s column comes to us from Clio Ajana. Clio is an Archieria for the House of Our Lady of Celestial Fire in the Hellenic Alexandrian Witchcraft & Spiritual Tradition, and she also practices Romuva (Baltic Heathenry). She currently lives in Central Minnesota. Her interests include divination, eldercare, prison ministry, and death midwifery.
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One of my favorite times lies in the span between the last two sabbats of the calendar year. Nights lengthen, temperatures cool and bring a hint of snow, and the ground hardens beneath the fallen leaves. The sabbat of ancestral remembrance resides in the past; the sabbat of returning light, and for some, a new year, hastens to greet us. I love this time, filled with inside pleasures: the taste of comfort food, the love of friends, and the warmth of family. Television commercials celebrate the idea that “there’s no place like home for the holidays”, complete with the 1959 version of the song, as a reminder that this time is one to create new memories to share with family members, old and new. This extended period calls for a slower pace and reflection on what matters. It is when we come home, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Coming home can be as exquisite as the taste of pecan pie, pineapple upside-down cake, and vanilla ice cream, or it can be as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While these may be enjoyed throughout the year, there is something special about the making and sharing of food with family at this time of year. Family in our Pagan community can be those who are related by blood, by choice, by faith, by friendship, or by chance. We define who matters in our lives by the essence we choose to share with them. Regardless of the miles that may separate us from our loved ones, the taste of a warm meal shared with those we consider family brings us to a state of home. Often, we create this with each feast after a blót or ritual. We might arrive as strangers, but we feast and celebrate as a community. We build a sense of home through the sharing of food, drink, and company.
At this time of the year, we may add to this practice by choosing to bring what we enjoyed in our childhoods or in previous places where we lived with our present circle of loved ones. Others may return to places of origin to renew acquaintance with dishes from the past, made with love by those long gone. Although it has been years, there is nothing like the taste of Muhly’s three-layer traditional yellow cake with rich chocolate frosting. For those flying, even the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has made accommodation for those who love or at least transport fruit cake.
Emotionally, we share the gifts that the passage of time brings between one year to the next. Like the sabbat of ancestral remembrance, we are far enough away from the thinning of the veil to appreciate family members who are no longer with us through the sharing of memories, jokes, lessons learned, and fun times shared in the past. The tone of remembrance falls along lines similar to funerals or public tributes to lives well-lived. We share laughter and smiles all around when thinking about the time that Aunt Ruth showed up to a family gathering with an additional 14 people and a few cases of beer. It turned out so well that we now have more people at the family gathering.
Stories remind us of how we bond, grow, and love as family. We share old traditions, family tales, and make new memories with our current families both near and far. We watch holiday movies with themes of family gatherings, food, and romantic reconnections that occur with those whose hearts seeking to love again. We consider how much we have changed internally since the last time we saw or hugged or even thought about certain family members or friends.
As our elders leave us, and we move closer to the time when we will become the elders, we collect memories. We keep them near in our hearts, knowing that they are by our side. We share our connections with the past and the present. This time of coming home emotionally is remembering and finding the place where one is known and loved. Sometimes, it is right in front of us. Sometimes it is re-discovering those from our place of origin in a new way. Sometimes, it is making new connections that become family and home.
Spiritually, this is a time of optimism, hope, openness, and generosity. Nearly every religious tradition has some celebration in the month of December. It is a time when our practices overlap with our neighbors. I hang a wreath on my door to celebrate, while my neighbor across the street has adornments day and night including two large glowing snowmen, four tall bushes covered with strings of colored bulbs, a festive Santa display with sleigh and several reindeer, and lights hanging from all parts of the roof. For those in similar neighborhoods, the outward physical appearance of one’s home may also represent the level of religious and spiritual appreciation for this time of the year. In Pagan communities, we prepare at this time through increased gatherings in groups and with friends. In the northern hemisphere, by the time we get to Winter Solstice, we are not only ready to celebrate the return of the light, we are also ready to leap from the dark half of the year with its internal focus into the more active light half of the year.
Exchanging of gifts is more than just a physical act. During this time we become the light for those around us. For some, this period is a time when the kindest act may be to listen to those who are not doing so well with the change of seasons on spiritual, emotional, or physical level. Listening can be one of the easiest means to connect with others; allowing the self to be open to others may be one of the hardest acts to do at this time of the year. We reconnect with our inner self and spiritual intentions through prayer, ritual, gatherings, and the healing power of sleep. Have you ever finally made it home during this time only to find that all you could do was sleep? As a community, this is a time of year when we seek to come together as one. We prepare ourselves for new beginnings and a time of re-birth and celebration at the solstice, the forthcoming sabbat. If something is not working between us and the gods we worship,we can look at it and work it out. If we feel something has gone wrong with our life, we have hope that we’ll get it right next time.
Whether it is snow, sand, mud, or soft grass that lies beneath our feet at this time of the year, the spirit of coming home is one where we can enjoy life for what it is, for who we are, and for those who surround us. The biggest and best part of this time has a relation to why we choose willingly to return to ourselves. In turbulent times, sometimes we need to be with those who know us. This time of reflection and renewal is vital because sometimes there’s nothing in the world that feels like coming home.
The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.